Life Drawing

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Recently, I decided it was time to start sharpening my observation and drawing skills. So, I did a bit of research and found a fortnightly life drawing class held in Caloundra, Queensland. I’ve been to two sessions so far. The first one had a male model the second had a female model. They were great to draw.

This charcoal drawing was done in 10 minutes and I thoroughly enjoyed drawing this model. She had beautiful curvy lines to follow and when she sat in this position, I loved how her legs crossed and she sat up. The photo has a few charcoal smudges but that’s because I had to flip the page and move on to the next drawing fast and I didn’t erase any of the marks before taking this photo.

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Charcoal on acid free paper. Life Drawing, 10 minute drawing, 15/5/2019. Artist: Selina Shapland

The last time I did life drawing class was in the first half of 2005 when I was at Art School in Melbourne, and I remember it being quite a challenging class as I had a lot of difficulty getting proportions and drawing what I was actually seeing in front of me.

Now fourteen, nearly fifteen years later, I have jumped in to life drawing and it’s been a lot of fun. I was nervous returning to life drawing class, but I am so happy that I have done it. I am connecting with other artists, being inspired by their approach to drawing what they see and I am deepening my ability to observe and draw with more accuracy.

This drawing below is in graphite and I was pleased with the result as it was accurate in proportion and I finally got the hands right. I find hands, noses and ears really difficult to draw. I will have to keep focusing on them and develop that skill.

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Graphite on acid free paper. Life Drawing, 10 minute drawing, 1/5/2019. Artist: Selina Shapland

Below are two of my favourite drawings from my most recent life drawing class. The model was so beautiful to draw and she did some excellent poses that added interest and challenged all of us to stretch ourselves.

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Graphite and charcoal pencils on acid free paper. Life Drawing, 15 minute drawing, 15/5/2019. Artist: Selina Shapland

The reclining drawing below was a real challenge for me as it wasn’t easy for me to get her arms down as I saw them. But in the end it worked out and I do love this drawing.

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Graphite and charcoal pencils on acid free paper. Life Drawing, 15 minute drawing, 15/5/2019. Artist: Selina Shapland

What I love about drawing and art in general is that it takes me to a special place where time, worries and anxieties fall away. I am in the moment. Completely. Utterly. Consumed by what I am drawing. For someone with anxiety as a constant companion, it is magnificent freedom to be in a space where the constant chatter is quiet.

Art, for me, is a like a meditation. When my inner critic gets involved, my art turns out a bit crappy. But when it is hushed and nothing more than background noise, my art seems to come to life.

Here are some other drawings and sketches from my life drawing classes so far. Some of my favourite pieces are the 30 second gesture drawings where I’ve scribbled madly using charcoals so I could capture the overall twist and movement of the model.

I’ve also been chipping away at editing my novel, The Living Death of Toddy James. I do that while sitting on the train on the way in to work during the week. I have to admit that my writing is much more fun when I take the pressure off myself to make it publishable or perfect. Also, returning to art has helped to free me from the inner chatter so I can get on with being creative.

I’ve also been learning cross hatching techniques, portraiture, watercolour botanical painting and how to draw with one line and not to judge the outcome.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve treated myself to three new visual diaries to fill. One is filled with good quality watercolour paper, the other two are ‘lay flat’ mini visual diaries for drawing and mixed media. Now I just have to get over the fear of making a mistake on the blank page and fill them with the things I see.

Whatever you’re up to, I hope it’s creative. Thanks for stopping by and supporting my creative life style blog.

Gouche and Crosshatching Creative Art

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This week I have been playing around and creating botanical art in my new Windsor and Newton Watercolour visual diary. I also bought a pack of 18 Gouache paints and combined them with watercolour, watercolour pencils and a black pen to bring my back garden and front garden to life.

Below are two of my botanical compositions. The first one is a representation of the plants in my back yard. I think the part I love most about this artwork is how I’ve captured the aloe vera leaves in the terra cotta pot. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this artwork.

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Below is a short timelapse video of how I created the botanical composition above.

This image below is a selection of the plants in my front yard. I enjoyed putting the deep red on the page. It’s a lovely contrast to the green hews of the other plants. And I love how lively the other plants are too.

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Below is a short video of photos I took from the concept drawing of the plants through to the finished art piece.

I’ve also been learning more about crosshatching lately. The three images below are a potato, a nose and a sphinx cat. They are all in my visual diary. I had a great time learning to cross hatch with my retractable pencil and focusing on the light and shadow in these images.

Art is all about observation and enjoying the process of playing with marks on the page.

I’m so pleased that my art mojo has come to life again. It’s wonderful to be back in the flow.

I’m off to do my second life drawing class since 2005 this coming week. I hope I’ll have some images to share. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ll keep drawing and editing my novel. Writing a novel and editing it is a long term game for me, so I am very grateful to have art flourishing in my life again.

I hope you have a great day and do something creative that nourishes you too.

Portraiture

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I’ve been studying portraiture with graphite in the last two week. It’s been so good to apply my art and observation skills to the page again.

Below is my first animal portrait in graphite on acid free cartridge paper (my visual diary). It’s a side view of Miss Poppy and her fluffy ragdoll ruff.

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Below is a short time lapse that I created of me drawing the above portrait.

I’ve also been studying the basics of human portraiture using graphite. Here are some examples of the lips, ear and hair that I’ve done.

I’ve also been studying the nose and eyes with a focus on light and shadow.

I enjoyed sketching each section of the human face and learning about light and shadow techniques. I also learned about the angles of the eyes, nose and lips. Each technique built on the other and I’m another step closer to creating portraits that look and feel the way I want them to be.

I’m going through a real art phase right now. Still writing and editing my story, but for now, I find that when I get absorbed in my art, I forget about everything that has been bothering me. All the anxious thoughts disappear and I am in the moment. There is no future, no past, only the present moment. That’s why I love art so much. It is a truly healing activity to do.

Until next time, I hope your creative projects are underway and you are having wonderful time too.

For anyone interested in learning portraiture drawing techniques, I recommend ‘Start Drawing: Techniques for Pencil Portraits by Gabrielle Brickey on Skillshare. That’s where I’ve been learning all about portraits in the last two weeks. She’s a brilliant artist and a great teacher who makes it easy for you to learn and apply your new knowledge too.

Thanks for dropping by.

Intricate Line Drawing Class

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It’s been a big artistic week for me. I’ve spent hours creating a new Skillshare course called, ‘Create Intricate Line Drawings’, and I’m super excited that I’ve managed to pull this off.

I’ve had to learn how to create effective time lapse videos, create video content that flows and makes sense, draw and draw and draw, get comfortable doing voice overs and figure out how to edit on iMovie too.

Below is a sneak peek at my course thumbnail and I’ve created a super simple, super short time lapse video to show you a snippet of the content.


Create Intricate Line Drawings

Below are three of the intricate line drawings I created as part of my Skillshare course demonstration.

I really do hope people enjoy the class. I’m happy with it. It took days to create the content and now I am utterly exhausted.

Tomorrow, I’m back to travelling on the train to go to my day job. That means it’s time to return to my story, The Living Death of Toddy James. I’ve finally finished the second edit and now I am going through plugging plot holes and polishing it to the best of my ability.

Another step closer to getting my manuscript back to the editor for the next round of creative publication preparation work.

I’ll update you on my next art project in the near future. I’m currently studying portraiture and hope to show you some of my work soon.

In the meantime, happy creating and thanks for dropping by.

Gesture Drawing the Figure & Watercolour Fun

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Happy Easter to you all!

I’ve spent my day drawing naked women. It’s an artist thing and it’s all about learning to create gesture drawings of the human figure.

Each sketch below was completed in less than two minutes and are from models who provide images for artists to develop their skills.

Here are the five gesture drawings I created this afternoon.

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Taking time out of my long weekend to draw and listen to David Bowie was fabulous fun. I have really missed just putting pencil to paper and making sketches that are quick reflections of what I see in front of me. I really should do more of this on a regular basis.

And since I was having so much fun, I took one of the gesture drawings of a half naked woman sitting on a stool with fine fabric draped across her legs and did a free hand drawing of her on watercolour paper.

Once I had a good sketch put down on the paper, I used black ink pen to outline her figure. Then it was time for some watercolour to make her pop off the page.

Below is a close up my watercolour drawing. I think it moved past being a gesture sketch but I’m happy with how she has turned out. I can still see areas that could be ‘fixed’ but art isn’t about perfection. It’s more about creative expression and rendering what I actually see on the page. So I am not going to allow my inner critical voice have any say in this one.

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I realised I haven’t done a gesture drawing or any life drawing since the start of 2005 when I was in the first year and a half of a Diploma of Visual Arts (which I never finished because I moved from Melbourne to Brisbane).

That’s a fourteen year gap where I haven’t practiced. So it was great fun to focus on the human figure again.

In time, when I have a better work/life balance, I hope to get along to some life drawing classes and create drawings and paintings that are from a live model rather than from photos. One day I’d like to be able to draw without having to focus so closely on a model or use them for inspiration and jump off into fantasy art.

I’ll get there. One arty mark at a time.

Hope you’re having a fantastic and happy Easter.

Whatever you’re up to, I hope it’s a creative day.

 

 

Butterfly Transition – A work in progress

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I’ve been learning how to capture my artwork in progress using a new app which has been so much fun.

I plan to create more how-to skillshare courses (with much better audio now that I know how to do that) so I can share more of what I do as an artist and to help me to grow as an artist. I’ve taken a bit of time off over the last couple of years so I could focus on learning the basics of writing a fiction novel, and now it’s time to incorporate more art into my life.

This artwork is a work in progress. I had an urge to use water colour pencils and play with them. So last night, this image started to come together.

Below is a super short image capture video showing how I used water colour pencils and a paint brush with a dab of water to colour the butterflies. I’m pretty happy with the video as I am learning and this is my first attempt at making a time lapse of my artwork.

I am calling this artwork ‘Butterfly transition’ as it is a symbolic representation of the internal changes I am going through in my life. I am seeing the brightness in life again. Seeing colour and vibrancy in the world is important, especially as I have, at times in the last couple of years been through darker emotional times. To me, this work in progress is a representation of hope.

And that is what I absolutely love about art. It’s a way to show where I am at in relation to the world around me. When my artwork is finished, I will put up a new blog post and share it with you too.

In the meantime, happy creating and thanks for stopping by.

A little art video

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Black Ink on Acid Free Paper – Intricate Line Drawing in Circle – Artist: Selina Shapland, Completed: 6th April 2019

I’m in the middle of learning how to set up my camera and record myself doing art so I can create more skillshare courses. I’d like to create one on drawing intricate line drawings. So, today, I set up the camera and played around with recording. Then I put the videos on iMovie and created the little arty video below.

I hope you enjoy it. As always, I am learning and growing as I share more of my creative evolution with you.

I’ll be having a few days off work around Easter, so I hope to put together a skillshare course on art and one on writing too. We’ll see. It takes a lot to develop a course, but I have ideas I’d like to share with my students, so I will keep giving it a go.

I am so grateful for all of the students I have skillshare. The fact that they watch and (hopefully) learn something from my creative experiences is truly touching.

Until next time, happy creating whatever your medium of choice!

Exploring Short Fiction

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Lauren Daniels and Geneve Flynn – Brisbane Writers Workshop, Seriously Short Fiction

Short story writing is a true art as far as I am concerned. It’s economical, punchy and a great way to polish up fiction writing skills. But … I haven’t been writing short fiction much. From time to time I have taken dreams (and nightmares) I’ve had and written them into short stories, but they always felt half formed. I didn’t know what wasn’t working with them.

So, I’ve stuck with writing long novels – Tuppence Weatherstorm and The Living Death of Toddy James, because I understand long fiction. That’s kind of silly since both short and long fiction have similar building blocks and writing elements. However, when I have attempted to write short fiction, my stories have blown out into massive ideas and I have struggled to contain them.

Both of my current novel manuscripts are in various stages of editing and rewriting and it’s a long journey writing a novel. I like to compare writing a novel to running a marathon. It is a long-term game and I need to pace myself. I have learned that if I sprint, I burn out too soon and hit the wall.

Yet, in between writing and rewriting scenes, deepening characters and depositing theme into my stories, I like to explore other types of writing and see where it takes me. And now it’s time to deep dive into the art and craft of writing short fiction.

When I attended the Brisbane Writers Workshop on writing Seriously Short Fiction with Lauren Daniels and Geneve Flynn. Here’s a few of the things I learned:

  • How to use a literary device called motifs. Motifs can be an object, such as a pack of cards that shows up several times throughout the story and subconsciously signal a deeper meaning to the reader. Honestly, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what motifs are. I don’t think I can explain it well enough here.. sorry.
  • How to structure a short story – they still have an inciting incident, rising action, a climax and a resolution.
  • The essential plot requirements – conflict, conflict, conflict drives the action of the story forward.
  • Character elements – best to limit the number of characters or the story will no longer be short fiction.
  • The preferred length for short fiction for my target audience – approximately 2,000 to 10,000 words for short fiction.
  • Have fun and protect your creativity.

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Seriously Short Fiction had so much excellent content which has enriched my understanding of writing and sparked my imagination too. It was the kind of course that niggles at your imagination and helps you develop the understanding needed to go away and playfully create on your own.

We did a free writing exercise and I was sitting there penning my thoughts on the paper and giggling like a crazy person because I was having so much fun with the character that danced into my imagination. We wrote for five minutes and the time pressure gave everyone permission to put aside their fears of ‘not being able to write’ and allowed each person to get on with the act of writing without listening to internal judgement.

I’m torn between writing up the free writing exercise here to share it with you and keeping it to myself. I want to share and I want to nurture and play with the story idea that danced to life on the day. I keep writing ‘danced’ because the thing my character stone were dancing shoes.

It was giggle worthy stuff. At least to me. And I think if the writer enjoys what they are writing, then the reader will enjoy it to.

Travel Writing with Brisbane Writers Workshop

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Travel Writing Tips

Last Sunday (17th March 2019), I attended The Art of Travel Writing with Brisbane Writers Workshop, run by the always amazing author, editor and director, Lauren Daniels.

It was my first travel writing workshop as I usually focus on fiction writing, but this time I wanted to branch out and learn how to put some of my travel experiences into stories and blogs. I wanted to learn how to write in a way that captures the imagination and inspires others to get out there and see the world too.

The workshop was small in numbers but big on inspiration and travel excitement.

I have to put a disclaimer right up front about my travel and writing. I confess I am not much of a traveller and so I am limited in my topic options, but am I?

I did go to the UK last year for the first time (if you read my blog regularly then you already know this) and I had so many amazing experiences which I still need to write about.

So, what did I learn and what can I share with you?

Here’s a limited list of travel writing tips inspired the travel writing workshop with Lauren Daniels, Brisbane Writers Workshop:

  • Go travelling and take notes – lots of notes. Take a note book, a voice recorder, shoot video and take photos. This will help bring back memories of the experiences you had while on your trip.
  • You’re not limited in your travel writing. Remember, you can write about your own home town and share your world with others who may want to visit your area.
  • Journalling is an important daily writing practice for anyone who wants to develop their writing voice. It is a place to go where you can be safe and say whatever you want without anyone casting judgement. Writing in a journal is about creating a practice (or habit) that gets your brain switched on and ready to dig deep for writing. It is also a fabulous opportunity for you to work on developing your writing voice which is important for all types of writing, from non-fiction to fiction.
  • Write about your experiences – the fantastic times, the hideous dark, and daring times because people love reading about how you handle the unexpected as well as the sweet.
  • Use imagery in your writing. I’ve written blogs here that haven’t delved into imagery as much as I could have. It’s a way of showing your reader where you are and giving them a taste of the place you are visiting without them actually being there. I’m going to keep working on putting vivid imagery and sense in to my travel stories.
  • Strive to be accurate in writing about places you visit. Remember there are a lot of people who love travelling and many will be familiar with the environment. It pays to double check facts and get nuances of your destination right.
  • You can structure your travel writing stories in different ways such as starting in the middle of an action scene where you set the tone of the stories to come. This travel piece can be from half way through your trip. Then you go back to the beginning of your trip and write from there up to this scene, then go beyond it. It’s one of a number of ways to structure your travel writing stories.

There were mountains of tips, tricks and ideas shared by Lauren Daniels and the participants. I was swept away with the travel ideas and itineraries of those who are planning round the world adventures myself.

We did writing exercises too. I had so much fun with one which was centred around the idea of: “I remember…” then start writing.

The prompt I chose was “Once, I got lost…”

I wrote this piece in long hand in my study journal and I wanted to share it here.


Once, in Oxford, I got lost.

Lunchtime had come around and my writing class had dispersed like ravens into the sky. The traffic hummed with cars, taxis and double-decker sight-seeing buses. Even in the overcast grey of the day, tourists sat on the top deck clicking with their camera phones.

A little lonely, I wandered down a side street admiring the old homes. I notices a security camera over a front door and thought nothing of it. But I should have thought more.

A right turn and down the lane a tiny church sat hunched over itself, surrounded by crooked grave stones with weather worn epitaphs.

It looked safe enough.

Tall trees loomed over the graves and I wandered down the winding path, snapping photos for my memory files.

The air around me stilled. Birds that had chirped stilled. Something unseen touched me, made me turn around.

Two men. Worn clothes. Shaggy beards.

They blocked the path and the entrance to the street.

I glanced right.

Where did the path go?

Was I trapped?

My heart tripped.

The men grew silent and drew closer.

No time to think. I clutched my phone, turned and rant to the back of the church, praying for a way out.

Relief flooded me. An open gate. My heart thundered in my ears. Fear pumped through my legs, giving me the super speed for my body to beat a path to the safety of the street.

I glanced back, heaving heavy breaths. They followed.

I swung right and ran for the main road.

I should have noted the security camera. I’d learned to value the signs.


When I wrote that piece, my heart tripped just as fast in my chest as it had the day that I’d been alone in that cemetery. It was my first trip to Oxford and I’d been having a great time, but I wanted some alone time. That day, I chose to wander on my own and even if they two men meant no harm, the experience still gave me a fright.

I made sure I stayed with people from the course from then on. I’d returned to my class with my heart pounding in my ears and my breath still heaving. My hands shook and I had to write a scene for my novel. It took all my focus to compartmentalise the experience I’d just had and do the writing exercise instead.

Oxford was still fantastic, but I was more aware of my surrounding than I had been before that event. I guess these experiences are part of the adventure of travelling.

Until next time, all the best with your writing, art and creative expression.

Contest, Critique & Editing

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I’m proud to tell you that my manuscript, The Living Death of Toddy James, was ranked 19 out of 127 submissions in the apprentice level of the 2018 Ink & Insights contest. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a fantastic result.

The 2018 Ink & Insight Contest was the first major critique contest I have entered and even though I was nervous, I stepped out of my comfort zone and put my words out there for constructive feedback from people I do not know.

There were four judges. Three of the judges were excellent, giving me constructive feedback to help me to develop my story structure and my writing while helping me to feel that I am doing a good job at learning and applying what I have learned about the art and craft of novel writing.

The fourth judge wrote comments that came across as if she had twenty plus years of editing experience, providing me with a particularly harsh set of comments. It wasn’t that she had given me difficult feedback so much as it was the blunt delivery of her words on the page that stung.

After reading her critique, I checked out her CV and saw that she is a super-keen newby editor with only one year of experience. That irritated me. And I admit my ego got its back up and I thought, “How dare she judge my work so harshly?” But then I took a deep breath and did my best to see the intent behind her harsh words and to reconcile my feelings. Maybe she was just keen to share what she knew?

Processing the feedback took a while and in the end, I’ve come to realise that all feedback is valuable to the writer, even brutally delivered feedback has hidden wisdom for me to consider.

So overall I am grateful for each judge and the guidance they gave me. But if I’m truly honest, my ego is still a wee bit miffed. I’m just being honest about how it made me feel and the struggles that I am sure every creative writer (and artist) goes through when critiqued.

I think as a creative person you have develop a thick skin for feedback no matter whether you are writing or creating art. Even when I was in art school all those years ago, I had to come to terms with other artists critiquing my work and toughen up as I was galvanised by the process of receiving feedback that was helpful but maybe difficult to hear.

So, since receiving my contest results and struggling to reconcile four different perspectives, I realised I needed the guidance of one editor. I needed to work with someone I trust completely to steer me in the direction of improving my manuscript for publication. That’s when I submitted my 80,000 word manuscript to Lauren Daniels for a professional structural edit and a taste of line editing.

Within a couple of weeks I received my manuscript with the first three chapters line edited and an overall professional structural edit. It was excellent, informative, and each comment was delivered with care for my growth as an author.

Below is an example of my story and the comments and line edit from Lauren. It looks overwhelming, but when I started going through the process of considering each and every comment and deletion, I found the changes made my prose come to life on the page.

LED editing sample for blog

Not once in all the comments and feedback provided to me by Lauren Daniels have I felt down or depressed or like I wasn’t moving forward with my writing skills.

Lauren Daniels is simply a fantastic editor who has twenty years of experience behind her and the depth of compassion needed to nurture authors to reach their potential.

Since receiving the structural edit, I have been able to pinpoint areas that need to be worked on my manuscript.

Each time I open my manuscript on Scrivener, I have cut out un-necessary ‘stage directions’, cleaned up dialogue so it is relevant and no longer a rambling mess, removed rhetorical questions and put an outline together to ensure my plot action and character arcs are adhering to the rising action/climax story structure format.

Below is a slightly blurred visual of my manuscript synopsis/outline for The Living Death of Toddy James. I’ve added a section to capture an important observation by Lauren about some of my female characters and how they relate to each other. I’ve blurred it because I don’t want to give away too many secrets of my story!

TLDTJ Outlining process on Scrivener 3

After wading through emotional confusion, I have allowed myself space to contemplate and compost my story. Processing emotions takes time and I think it’s good to give myself space to do that.

Now I am finding my editing feet and taking consistent steps toward polishing my novel for the next round of feedback and development.

I’ll have an outline with the plot points sorted in a structure that works and I will have a tight cast of characters to carry the story.

I have learned once again that not every reader is from my ‘tribe’ and that’s okay. I’ve also learned that composting feedback and mulling things over is also an important phase of the creative writing process.

It’s exciting to share my ups and downs with you as I go from the dream of writing and publishing a story, to writing the story, editing the story and to one-day publishing it for readers to read and review.