Observation Journal — Story Behind the Shapes

This observation journal page is a variation a previous activity.

The week before, I’d been playing with the concept of a story behind a story, as a way to strengthen a draft or unfold an existing story. Here, I was trying to apply that to illustration.

Double page spread of observation journal. Tiny handwritten observations. Notes with sketches on component shapes.

I adapted the activity by instead asking: If I remove the [primary/obvious] purpose, what remains?

Of course, I discovered I’d simply reinvented “breaking an image down into its component shapes”.

But doing that does create a basis for building something back up into new shapes and possibilities, and revealing alternative, less-obvious purposes.

Handwritten notes with tiny sketches of component shapes.

A more directly creative (as in, I made things out of it) activity was: Drawing the people glimpsed from the corner of your eye. But the mental exercise of this approach felt like a (mild) workout, and it was an intriguing way to hold an object in mind and at arm’s length, and look beyond the obvious.

Writing/illustration activity:

  • Choose an object in your line of sight.
  • Identify its main/obvious purpose.
  • Now ignore that purpose. What remains? A collection of shapes? Secondary or tertiary uses?
  • What could you build up with those residual aspects? What type of story might it have come out of (fictional or real)? Could you create something with those shapes and textures, or redesign the object to better fit a less-obvious use?
  • Do a quick sketch (written or drawn).
  • Bonus round: Repeat a few times. Then notice what was easy or hard, what tactics you defaulted to, what objects or features regularly charmed you.
paint-water jug and candy (dice) jar

Support and/or follow

If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, here are some options:

Tamsin House Arts Fest auction — now on

Design of musicians in front of a large house

The Tamson House Arts Fest auction is running right now, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to support MaryAnn Harris and Charles de Lint through MaryAnn’s recovery, and to acquire a bewildering selection of art (including a piece by me!), books, jewellery, one-on-one author and editor chats, and more from their friends, fans and well-wishers: Tamson House Arts Fest.

You can also make donations directly through the GoFundMe campaign: Harris – de Lint Recovery Fund.

Kanagawa University mini exhibition

Screenshot from linked website:

As part of AUSTRALIA WEEK at KANAGAWA UNIVERSITY we are pleased to
present a mini exhibition featuring the work of Australian artists Kathleen
Jennings, Jazmina Cininas, and Mortimer Menpes.

an exhibition featuring Australian artists in Japan
As part of the exchange of ideas between Australia and Japan, this
exhibition showcases the dreamy artwork and paper cuts of
KATHLEEN JENNINGS, the whimsical wolves and girls in the wood
of JAZMINA CININAS, and the water colours of MORTIMER

As part of Australia Week at Kanagawa University and the Festival of the Fantastic in Australian and Japanese Arts, there is currently a poster/print exhibition of art by Jazmina Cininas and me! It runs from 14 until 28 November 2022, and if you are in Kanagawa, you can find the more precise whereabouts in this Instagram post from their English department.

Photo of A1 prints of art on easels in front of long windows in a university corridor
Includes art for Frances Harding (Utz Books), Juliet Marillier (Serenity Press), Corella Press (University of Queensland) and Wildendrem (Phantom Mill Games)

And you can have a look at other free in-person and virtual events on the website for the Festival of the Fantastic in Australian and Japanese Arts.

Text Journal publication — Retelling Tales

Screenshot of start of linked article

My short piece “Some Ways to Retell a Fairy Tale” has been published in TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses!

It began as a series of observations about retellings that I’d encountered in the short-story reading project, but quickly grew into its own… direction? reference guide? invocation? invitation? litany?

En Route — notes from a train

Photo of Amtrak Viewliner carriage at New Orleans

Some trips are easier to communicate from than others, and as previously expressed, I find it very difficult to work on trains.

Last week, I rode from New Orleans to NYC, a two-day trip (in a roomette!). I stared out the window almost the entire time, and made these notes.

Screenshot of first few tweets in linked thread

They form two lengthy (linked) threads on Twitter, but I will edit them for elegance soon.

However, if you prefer a little more brevity, Travelogues contains 9 substantially shorter train journeys:

Wildendrem — Kickstarting (funded in two days!)

"The Valley of Flowers" cover — a silhouette (yellow to pink gradient on dark blue background) of flowers with beasts and knights and monks among them, and towers below descending like roots

I had the chance to illustrate the cover for Wildendrem, from Phantom Mill Games, a fantasy campaign setting that is kickstarting now. At the date of this post, there are 20 days left to run in the campaign, which funded fully by its second day

Wildendrem is a land lousy with knights, where the quest is the chief currency, and where the dark dreamings of the ancient world still seep from the shadows. It is a land gone strange: picture a black light Avalon, or the Knights of the Round Table in the grips of a sorcerous hallucination. The Wildendrem style of fantasy adventure is a vibrant combination of high medieval and deep weird.

The subject of this first volume is Gnolune, the Valley of Flowers, one of Wildendrem’s nine provinces. It is a place of decadence and dangerous beauty, in which flower knights roam the meadows in search of challengers, monks make wine to inspire visions of a lost empire, and a sorceress tends to the eons-long birth of a vegetal godling.

You can support the game, pre-order, and perhaps push it into stretch goal territory here: Wildendrem Volume One.

Kickstarter cover image for Wildendrem, bodies fallen among barrels and flowers
The Knights of the Upended Goblet. (Illustration by Evangeline Gallagher)

October 2022 — round-up of posts

Two pages of tiny colourful sketches of cosplayers

Here is a quick master list of the October 2022 blog posts (not including Patreon posts). I hurt my main typing elbow this month, which curtailed typing and drawing time. Nevertheless, I managed to get a little bit done. And now I’m in the USA for the World Fantasy Convention!

Tiny ballpoint sketch of two people looking at a third walking by

The starred posts have art and writing exercises (tags: writing exerciseart exercise).

Page of observation journal with pasted-down silhouette of flowers and leaves, with gold detailing and handwritten notes
black feathers on a grasscloth-wallpaper patterned with a skeleton orchestra

Posts over on Patreon at various tiers included: sneak peeks of upcoming projects, test prints, new maps, voluminous sketches, and early access to the calendar, along with two alternative colour schemes.

Snippet of silhouette with wasps and flowers
Art for Wildendrem, which is kickstarting now! I’ll post a process post soon

World Fantasy 2022 timetable

Screen shot of World Fantasy Convention 2022 header. New Orleans, Louisiana, November 3-6, 2022.

I am in New Orleans, after a very long (and somewhat delayed) series of flights. I’m still travel-crumpled, and haven’t quite steeled myself to see the state of all the art I packed for the exhibition, but I’m here. And here is my schedule (for more details, see the convention website and program):

  • The Three Mood Approach to Writing Short Fiction — a one-hour online workshop on Wednesday at 11am CDT.
  • Art show (throughout)
  • Panel: Combining Outlooks: Artists who are Writers – Friday at 11:00 am
  • Reading – Saturday at 4:00 pm
  • Art reception – Saturday at 8:00 pm
  • Panel (moderating): The Artist as Visual Storyteller – Sunday at 11:00 am

More details (rooms, etc) can be found on the convention website: https://www.wfc2022.org/

November 2022 calendar — iconographies

A design of yellow motifs of skulls, mushrooms, cats, foxes, goblets, pomegranates, etc on a blue ground.

These calendar pages are made possible by patrons, who get them a little bit early, along with alternative colourways, and other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art: patreon.com/tanaudel. It is also supported by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: ko-fi.com/tanaudel.

For November, and my sore elbow, here is a set of tiny motifs — I drew them half-size with a different pen than usual (a Kuretake Zig Mangaka flexible pen, instead of a Hunt Crowquill 102 dip pen), to spare my arm.

My heart is still with the dip pen, and I will return to it as soon as my elbow mends, but I do enjoy the graphic qualities of these images.

Sketch for a design of yellow motifs of skulls, mushrooms, cats, foxes, goblets, pomegranates, etc.

I was also trying to use a different colour scheme, but managed to circle back around to my old favourite blue and gold.

Patrons also got a bubble-gum and raspberry version.

Cropped section of design of bubble-gum-pink motifs of skulls, mushrooms, cats, foxes, goblets, pomegranates, etc on a raspberry ground.

I’m planning a repeating pattern, but I’m also in transit at the moment, so that will probably be a little while away.

Below (for personal use) are the printable versions — one pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself.

If you like these and/or like supporting artists, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early) at patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at US$1/month) or tip me a few dollars through Ko-Fi: ko-fi.com/tanaudel. Either is greatly appreciated! And of course many previous designs are available as prints etc on Redbubble and Spoonflower.

Also, I have a very occasional mailing list (not a newsletter), if you’d like to keep up with any major announcements: Mailing List Sign-Up

November 2022 calendar with a design of yellow motifs of skulls, mushrooms, cats, foxes, goblets, pomegranates, etc on a blue ground.
November 2022 calendar lineart with a design of motifs of skulls, mushrooms, cats, foxes, goblets, pomegranates, etc.

October 2022 Short Story Reading Post

Photo of handwritten notes — key sections extracted below

This post is a roughly tidied version of my October 2022 tweets about short stories. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post (that links to where they are first mentioned, but there’s often further discussion). Also, as usual, this post is long, so the rest is below the cut…

(Also, I’ve hurt my arm, so this is even less tidied than usual.)

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