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.
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.
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 – in progress art work by Selina Shapland
Two circles, watercolour pencils, green leaves and pink flowers
Adding four butterflies to the image – using a stamp
Traced butterflies with black ink pen
Here I started colouring each butterfly – I started with blue
I painted the second butterfly orange and warm yellow
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I’m circling back around to my arty side this year.
In recent years, I have taken a big break from painting and drawing. I needed a breather but now I have realised just how much I have missed my art practice.
So, I got myself a moleskine art journal (my first one) and have started sketching and water colour painting in it. I am totally inspired by author and illustrator Kate Knappe with her cute little birds, so you will see an image that I drew to honour her artistic expression in the photos below. If you see her work around – there are a lot of greeting cards with her artwork in Australia – do support her if you can and if you like the art of course.
I’m all for supporting living artists who can do with the dollars in their bank account so they can live life and continue to do what they love.
Here is one of the pages out of my moleskine art journal.
I’m going through a reflective stage and wondering what I should do next?
Do I keep focusing on writing my novel and slogging away attempting to get it published?
Or do I study something? Something else? Should I study art? Should I study something that will help me in my day-job?
So many questions.
So much inner confusion.
I love art.
I love writing.
I love coaching.
I do enjoy learning but I am not sure what to do. What is next for me?
So this piece of artwork is a true reflection of the questions and confusion whirling around inside of me.
This page of my art journal is a reflection of how intricately interconnected we all are.
At least, that’s how I see the world.
I have recently decided to sponsor two young girls through World Vision and, hopefully, make a difference for them and their community. I didn’t do this lightly. I feel very strong about young girls having the opportunity for a good education and waiting until a decent age to be married. It is my hope that my sponsor children and their community will embrace this opportunity to have more choices and be lifted up and out of poverty.
As I was drawing this image, I was thinking about my sponsor children and how we are worlds apart, both geographically and with regard to quality of life style and education and choices. But I believe that all beings are interconnected and there are threads that connect us. I believe that one act can have a multitude of effects. A lot of the time, I do not know the effect I have on people, but it is my hope that my effect is a positive one for all concerned.
So, I’m getting back into my art. I’m thinking about things outside of my fiction stories but I am still drawn to my writing. I love it.
I’m just not keen on editing.
Editing is hard work.
I’m not averse to hard work.
I just think I’m a bit creatively burned out at the moment.
But despite my burn out, I am still returning to The Living Death of Toddy James and day by day I am making editing progress. I’m up to chapter six so far. It’s a matter of small daily habits that add up to big changes.
I won’t give up. I’ll rest and I’ll refocus, and I will edit my novel. It takes grit and determination to get these things done.
Now, as promised, here are some more photos of my awesome UK holiday from last year.
In the above collage, Dave and I went to Edinburgh and saw the city, Edinburgh Castle. We also visited a fabulous historic place called Torphichen Inn for dinner and a show.
Wow, what an amazing place. I was in love with the atmosphere, the friendly welcome and the life size cardboard cut out of Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series, written by Diana Gabaldon. The ladies at our table were a little shocked at how excited I was to see the cardboard cut out, but I had only just finished listening to the audio book and watching the series, so in my mind, Jamie Fraser had come to life!
I still love David, but it was Jamie Fraser!
I think David was in love with Torphichen. I think he wanted to immigrate and live there for the rest of his life. It was green and homey. The Torphichen Inn was filled with friendly people and the services was excellent. We had haggis. I actually ate some and David had a bowl-full.
The photo above is the Torphichen Inn.
The show had bag pipes, singing and excellent hospitality. I truly loved Torphichen and felt very warmly welcomed.
We saw the Kelpies sculptures several times as the bus took us from the hotel to Edinburgh and back on our visit. They were spectacular and it was the first time I’d heard that Kelpies were shape-shifting water spirits that take people and drown them. As an Australian, when I hear the word ‘kelpie’ I think of a type of dog, so this revelation was endlessly entertaining to all of the Aussies on the bus.
Dave and I also visited the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book – OMG, I almost wet myself with excitement. It’s called The Elephant House. We had coffee and cake and then we entered the toilets which were completely covered in Harry Potter fan scribblings. It was surreal. I didn’t like the way people wrote all over the toilets. It was oppressive. I think being a fan is great, but defacing property falls outside of my boundaries for appropriate ways to show adoration.
Anyway, of course, I had to buy a mug to remind me of this special opportunity to dine in cafe where one of the most famous writers of today did her plotting, characterisation and writing. I was hoping some of her inspiration and determination to finish writing would rub off on me. I’m still hopeful.
In the photos above, you can see us at The Elephant House.
We also visited Greyfriars Bobby where this little loyal dog is honoured and remembered. This church was fabulous, but for those who enjoy a bit of ghost hunting and paranormal thrills, I have to say there was a crypt there that gave me the shivers.
It’s the circular one with the dome roof. It had two doors with square windows made of wrought iron. I was too scared to get too close to this one. I kept getting the shivery sense that something was inside watching me. My writer’s imagination went wild, wild, wild with exciting ideas for creating paranormal wonder in my stories from this experience!
Okay, for my last Scottish highlight, here’s a super short video where Dave and I went hunting for the Loch Ness Monster and caught a glimpse!
Happy creativity whether you write, dance, make art or create music. Whatever you do, I hope it brings you joy and happiness.
Happy New Year and all that good stuff to you and your loved ones. And a big thank you for supporting my blog over the time you have been with me. It means a lot to me to know that people are visiting and reading my words. I hope that what I share here inspires your heart and your creative expression in life too. I thought I’d write a little about one of the pivotal adventures I had in 2018 and share some highlights.
Last year was a big year for me with my first trip to the UK. I went alone for the first eight days and attended the Fantasy Fiction Writing Course, run by David Farland, in Oxford. Then my partner, David, flew over and we met up in London for a much needed holiday.
Dave and I went to Leicester Square and had high tea. We also stayed in Kensington and saw a Dr Who tardis – that’s what I reckon it was and I’m sticking to my story.
The writing course was intense but I was with a room full of amazing fantasy fiction authors and it was a privilege to listen to them read their current work in progress, and then to provide feedback too. I made some wonderful friends in this course which I am very grateful. They were all incredibly dedicated to the art and craft of writing a fantasy stories that lives on inside the reader long after the last page is read.
Once I’d met up with Dave in London, we had four nights before getting on a Cost Saver Trafalgar bus trip for 16 days where we visited the tourist highlights of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Dave and I did a couple of walking tours of London, saw Leicester Square, the Royal Palace, did the hop-on hop-off bus.
Here are some of the photos I took on my holiday. They include images from my time in Oxford as well as on the trip. Below you can see photos of my visits to Platform 9 & 3/4s in London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, the City of York, Warwick Castle and Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.
Then Dave and I took the Eurostar over to Paris.
First we got lost in the underground for over an hour and when we finally got to the surface, it took quite a bit to orient ourselves. We saw the Notre-Dame Cathedral and then we were on the hop-on hop-off bus to get our bearings. Below you can see a photo of the Arc de Triomphe and Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Then we went to Le Lourve and found the Mona Lisa and many other beautiful pieces of art that were worthy of just as much attention as the Mona Lisa. The Lourve was huge and magnificent. It was a true highlight for me. So was seeing the Eiffle Tower.
Below are some photos from York and Stratford-Upon-Avon.
When we visited the home of Shakespeare there was a small market on by the river and these gorgeous owls were there hanging out. Of course, being a huge animal lover, I had to snap up some photos.
On our first night in Edinburgh we went to see a Scottish Show with dinner. Here are a few photos of the dancers. We weren’t allowed to take videos, so I snapped up some photos and danced along in my seat.
Really, there are so many photos and memories, it’s taking me quite a while to go through them and process all the experiences I had while overseas. I think I’ll leave my first blog post for 2019 there because I don’t want to bombard you.
I will do a blog with photos of each section and share the journey with you as I transfer the images across from my phone to the cloud.
Anyway, whatever 2019 brings, I hope it is good for you and that you and your creativity grow and develop in positive ways.
When I logged on to write this post on Resilience and share a video that touched me, I saw a notification from wordpress. It congratulated me because I have been writing here for six years. I hadn’t thought about the age of my blog at all. It was a pleasant surprise.
One of the things I like most about my blog is that it changes as I change. I like that it allows me to connect with you on a personal level even though we may not have met in person.
That’s pretty cool.
Connection and expressing an idea that resonates with another person is something I love. I particularly like that about writing, making videos and writing fiction too.
So, today I wanted to share this YouTube video of Marian Keyes (one of my favourite authors) where she talks about resilience. It’s an important topic to me as I I have anxiety and suffer with worry, numbness and disassociation at times too. Sometimes I am lost in a darkness that spirals around so fast I can’t grasp the edge to slow myself down.
I wanted to share this video because when Marian Keyes talks about worrying when she was a child, it resonated so strongly with me. I worried too. A futile practice but I still did it and I still do par-take in the act of worrying without being able to control the outcome.
Worry gnaws at my nerves until they are red-raw. I have to write those worries down and shred them or burn them (in a controlled and safe manner) so I can be mentally free of them.
So, the ability to be resilient in the face of anxiety and depression isn’t easy for me all the time but, I know (from my own experience) it can be done.
Lately, I have been on the roller-coaster ride of anxiety. There are days when I am 100% okay and sailing through things. Life’s good.
Then there are other times when I wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach curling in on itself, tightening into a clenched knot of overwhelming dread and I don’t even know exactly what is triggering it.
I’ve learned to allow these experiences to be a part of the tapestry of my life. I’m not always keen on leaning into my uncomfortable feelings but I am doing it.
Sometimes I get swept away with what the inner voice is saying.
Other times I am able to discern what the worries are and see them for the shifting sands of anxious thought that they are. That’s when I am able to step back and see the pattern playing out.
Anyway, I hope the video with Marian Keyes helps you as much as it helps me.
I’m so grateful for Marian Keyes. She’s a great person and an excellent story teller. I especially love her honesty and raw grit as she shares her own experience with depression and anxious thoughts.