Observation journal: remixing good art

On this observation journal page, I used previous notes on my creative habits in order to remix an image.

Double page spread of observation journal. Tiny handwritten observations, a drawing of a birds nest in a tree.
I’m still amused by the little seen/heard/did icons on the left (observation) page

In a previous post — Points of Habit and Resistance — I did an activity where I listed some of my creative patterns and habits (good and bad) and then flipped them. (See also Paired Points, for more on that).

So e.g. “whimsy” flips to “violence” or “grotesque”.

The aim was to not correct habits, but to be aware of them and see where I wanted to adjust them and where I wanted to double-down.

I’ve been working that list up into a larger project, about which more soon!

On this page, I just wanted to play with some of those prompts.

For the purposes of trying them out, I chose an image I already liked — in this case, Ryo Takemasa‘s Water Lily illustration (see it here on Ryo’s portfolio or buy prints on Society6).

Screenshot of Ryo Takemasa art print of waterlilies in shades of blue-green on black water with a crescent moon above
Those blue-greens, the DEPTH they give the darkness, the shimmery yellow fingernail moon…

(A few other water lily images I’d been looking at recently also got into these ideas.)

Trying an exercise with someone else’s picture is a great way to:

  1. study how and why that picture works for me,
  2. know I’m working with something I already like (I’m sometimes too close to my own work), and
  3. relieve any pressure I feel to make something out of the exercise — this is Ryo Takemasa’s picture! I’m just conducting an exercise.

I then ran that image through a number of my prompts, and made quick drawn and written sketches of how they might change the scene.

A set of smaller sketches varying a drawing of lilypads.

It was interesting to note which gave rise to new ideas, and which suggested a treatment for a related topic.

There are close-ups of the exercises below:

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Handouts as a structuring principle, mockups for getting things done

Mock-ups of a book of map making instructions

For the 1-hour drop-in map workshop at BWF, I made little zine-fold (aka 8-fold) booklets, which I put in little mermaid-stamped envelopes with little pencils and little pieces of nice drawing paper. (I think I learned this in primary school, but there are plenty of instructions for this sort of booklet online, e.g. wikiHow.)

Above, you can see the mock-up process (the easiest way to turn a vague idea into something real: Mockups and outlines).

Photo of yellow envelopes stamped with a linocut mermaid, with versafine clair stamp pad and hand-carved stamp in foreground
  • I folded a piece of paper into a booklet and really quickly, without thinking too hard, scribbled the whole layout into it. Then I went back over and drew all over that with arrows, moving things around — but that hand-drawn version has almost everything in it.
  • Then I drew up a template in Photoshop, with shading for margins and areas that wouldn’t print, so I knew what I had to work with.
  • I put the main text roughly into place, and then put in the example images I already had (I’d deliberately drawn some calendar pages and other illustration to give me examples for map workshops — see for example Tiny Forests and Banners).
  • I printed that out, and used it as a template to draw all the extra details around, like the map and lettering on the front cover.
  • Then my housemate and I proofread it a few times, and I spent some pleasant hours cutting and folding and listening to music.

Was this overkill for a free one-hour drop-in workshop? Yes. Was I overcompensating for my own uncertainty as to the exact venue constraints and whether this workshop could be done in an hour? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes.

Designing and folding the booklets took time, but it was proportionate to the result. People enjoyed them (they were awfully cute), and said it was good to have for such a short class, and to be able to take away if they had to leave early (since it was drop-in). And I really liked have a physical object to give people, so I knew they left the workshop with something.

The biggest lesson for me was how useful this sort of booklet/zine/object was in planning and giving the workshop. It’s easy to just go wild with handouts. But this was a single, self-contained object, with a size appropriate to the length of the class (three double-page openings and a wrap-around cover — the flip-side of the paper was blank for people to use as scrap paper). It was something that constrained my natural urge to put ALL THE INFORMATION in a talk, but it was also a prop I could talk to and scale my time around.

It might not apply to every format, but I’d like to experiment with similar (if less-illustrated) scaled handouts as a central structuring object for other workshops.

Photo of whiteboard with very scribbly fairy-tale map on it
The whiteboard by the end of the workshop

I’m adding this to my running list of lessons I’ve learned for giving workshops and presentations (see e.g. lessons for presentations and conferences). I should probably do a master post at some point, but for now the main lessons I have learned (your mileage my vary) are:

  • Use a handout scaled to the workshop size.
  • Do an initial outline very quickly, before overthinking.
  • If a presentation is image based, arrange images in the slideshow first, print them out 9-to-a-page to keep track, then just talk to/about the pictures. Minimal script needed — often any title-slides and maybe one or two scribbled notes of phrases to remember are enough.
  • If a slideshow is image-heavy, export a copy to PDF and use that if the tech set-up allows — you can zoom in on a PDF in ways a Powerpoint doesn’t easily allow.
  • If a script is necessary, use cascading dot-points — this makes it easier to edit for time (skip up to high-level dot-points) or elaborate (by referring to the low-level ones), as well as to navigate quickly.
  • If it’s a creative workshop, get people making things as early as possible.
  • If you want people to interact, get them to share their thoughts/activities in smaller groups, then pick on the groups for any ideas that emerge (giving everyone safety in numbers/plausible deniability).
  • If possible, mixed-age workshops can be great. Adults mellow the kids, kids loosen up the adults, everyone seems more willing to show their work, and if you need someone to act out an implausible action for art reference purposes, young joints are better suited.

Dickens on plot twists and (mis?)direction and managing reader’s realisations in serialised formats

Dickens, in his afterword to Our Mutual Friend, describes the fine balance (in a serialised novel!) of giving readers enough information to work out what was happening, but little enough that they thought they weren’t meant to. The trick of letting the audience feel smart without thinking the author foolish.

Photo of Postcript to Our Mutual Friend
Redacted in case you have not yet read the (wonderful) novel (although I do often recommend the BBC miniseries as an entry point, not least because it’s so short compared to the novel and therefore difficult to come back to afterwards)

POSTSCRIPT.

IN LIEU OF PREFACE.

When I devised this story, I foresaw the likelihood that a class of readers and commentators would suppose that I was at great pains to conceal exactly what I was at great pains to suggest: namely, that ******, and that ********. Pleasing myself with the idea that the supposition might in part arise out of some ingenuity in the story, and thinking it worth while, in the interests of art, to hint to an audience that an artist (of whatever denomination) may perhaps be trusted to know what he is about in his vocation, if they will concede him a little patience, I was not alarmed by the anticipation.

To keep for a long time unsuspected, yet always working itself out, another purpose originating in that leading incident, and turning it to a pleasant and useful account at last, was at once the most interesting and the most difficult part of my design. Its difficulty was much enhanced by the mode of publication; for, it would be very unreasonable to expect that many readers, pursuing a story in portions from month to month through nineteen months, will, until they have it before them complete, perceive the relations of its finer threads to the whole pattern which is always before the eyes of the story-weaver at his loom. Yet, that I hold the advantages of the mode of publication to outweigh its disadvantages, may be easily believed of one who revived it in the Pickwick Papers after long disuse, and has pursued it ever since.

A loose collection of thoughts on other people’s appreciation of things

A drawing of a compass, sample borders, a scroll with "elsewhere" and an arrow, and a comment saying "good coffee here!"

I’m taking delight, lately, in appreciations of things.

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Brisbane Writers Festival 2022 very brief recap

Bookmarks with suburb names from old estate maps
Suburb bookmarks from the State Library Bookshop

I had a lovely three days at the Brisbane Writers Festival! I had hoped there would be more days, but was miserably unwell during the week, and only just managed to claw myself back to being able to go in on Friday.

Unfortunately, this meant I missed hearing the readings and seeing the announcements of the winner of the Wordplay Microfiction prize on the Thursday, but I was permitted to read all the finalists’ stories after the event, and was enchanted with all the elegant, eloquent, unexpected ways they riffed on the inspiration image.

I can’t find a list of the winners online yet, but congratulations!

Cut paper silhouette swirl with fish, birds, person with paper planes
A particular shout-out to the student who made this image about soft-serve icecream!

On Friday I chaired the “Debuting in a Pandemic Panel”, with Jacqueline Maley, Sophie Overett and Lyndall Clipstone.

The three books were very different: Jacqueline Maley’s The Truth About Her is a novel of guilt, journalism, love and motherhood. Sophie Overett’s The Rabbits depicts of stifling Brisbane summers, and the damage and enchantment that can exist between generations. Lyndall Clipestone’s Lakesedge is a gothic, romantic fantasy, with more than a touch of the fairytale.

And it was lovely to bring together all the experiences which went into bringing these books into being, editing and launching them during the second year of a pandemic, and finding space and peace to write — and books to vanish into!

On Saturday I gave a one hour map illustration workshop.

Mock-ups of a book of map making instructions
Mocking up the handout booklet

It was actually really fun to see if this workshop could work in 1 hour (it did! although of course you can dive much deeper and do a larger map with more time) and to put together this little zine-fold instruction book which I hope to build on for future projects. This, although brief, was a very large and lively workshop between LoveYA events at the Brisbane Square Library.

Photo of whiteboard with very scribbly fairy-tale map on it
Crowd-sourced map of Little Red Riding Hood (the version with the zombie giraffe on a floating island)

After that I was on a panel with Lynette Noni and C. S. Pacat, chaired by Samantha Baldry, called “Sweet, Sweet, Fantasy”.

Book covers: The Gilded Cage, Dark Rise and Flyaway
The Gilded Cage, Dark Rise, Flyaway (although I was there as an illustrator, too)

We got very intense about research and making things up, getting things written, planning, exclaiming over each others’ writing processes, etc.

Sketches of people waiting in a book signing line
The trick at a book signing is to sit near people with long queues and sketch their fans

And on Sunday, I gave a three hour workshop on observation journals, honing skills and pursuing creative fascinations.

It was a smaller group and a long delightful workshop, wide-ranging and intense, and everyone dug thoroughly into the exercises, which was fascinating for all of us, because a lot of the point of this approach is that it will vary as people chase down their own processes. It was lovely to see how many pages of exercise, thoughts, ideas, plans and even drawings everyone left with.

It was lovely to update and expand this from the version I gave for the Queensland Art Teachers Association Conference last year, and bring in more focus on writing.

I have no photos of the session because I was bounding around talking and chatting for three hours and forgot

And around all the presenting and planning there were wonderful conversation with friends new and old, writers and publicists, publishers and agents, readers and fans, librarians, waiters, volunteers and BWF staff and board members, poets and musicians.

I might update this post with some photos if I come across them.

April 2022 — round-up of posts

Ballpoint and watercolour scribbly sketch of a carriage crossing a bridge and a woman in a pink dress looking out of a carriage

Here is quick master list of the April 2022 blog posts (not including Patreon posts). It’s a rather short list, because I got taken out by Covid for a couple weeks. But there’s a fair bit of art.

Digital sketches of people from S3 E1 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games

The starred posts have (or relate to) art and writing exercises (tags: writing exerciseart exercise), but most of the observation journal posts can generally be adapted for those purposes too.

Map of many messy multicoloured loops between various redacted locations
Cut paper silhouette swirl with fish, birds, person with paper planes

Also, I have a mailing list now (not a newsletter; it’s for major news and things people might have missed). You can sign up here: Mailing List Sign-Up

Close-up of illustrated bookstore map printed on newsprint

Posts over on Patreon, at various tiers, were also abbreviated this month, but included: advance previews of some of these posts, a couple weeks of observation journal pages (with PDFs), some life and PhD updates, printable bookmarks and borders, and (for some) a tigerish sort of short story.

Cropped glimpse of bird-and-daisy bookmark patterns

 

 

May 2022 Calendar — small treasures

Note: Want to support the arts? This calendar is made possible by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with alternative colourways, and other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art (patron levels start from US$1): 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.

Here, for May, is a calendar of small fairy-tale treasures, variously defined.

Pattern of leaves and small treasures. Pink background.

Here’s a glimpse of the sketch I used as a base. It’s drawn on an iPad in Procreate, which is proving very useful for adjusting sketches, moving components, and checking that repeats will work.

Photo of sketch of curled cat on iPad screen

This is what it looked like when I was checking that it will join up as a pattern, in due course.

Rough sketch of repeating pattern with motifs roughly coloured

Then I printed the sketch and inked it, as usual, with a dip pen, while listening to the Disaster Girls podcast.

Photo of hand with dip pen inking branches

I do want to work it up as a repeating pattern, but I need to jostle a few leaves around and time has been slightly compressed by events. I’ll update this post when I get the repeating design up — in the meantime, there are many other calendar designs available as prints, scarves, cases etc on Redbubble: tanaudel.redbubble.com.

Snippet of calendar art with black and white images (toy horse, ring, key) on deep rose background
An alternative colourway, for patrons

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions — one pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself. If you like them 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!

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

Printable calendar page. May 2022 calendar on left. Pattern of leaves and small treasures on right. Pink background.

April short story reading post

Photo of double-page of notebook with some handwritten notes on stories (elaborated below)

This post is a roughly tidied version of my April 2022 tweets about short stories. It’s quite long (although the month’s reading was abbreviated by Covid), so I’m putting the rest of it below the cut. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post.

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TV Sketching: Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games

In this instalment of tv sketching, I’ve discovered Les Petits Meurtres d’Agatha Christie (Wikipedia; AgathaChristie.com), aka Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games / Little Murders. Only one season (one from the 1950s-set series — the season numbering is convoluted) is currently available here on SBS On Demand, and only for a few more days.

The usual TV sketching rule applies — no pausing.

Digital sketches of people from S3 E1 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games
“The Pale Horse”

In terms of its heightened reality / little world / stagey fun, it’s on par with Queens of Mystery, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, and Shakespeare & Hathaway.

Digital sketches of people from S3 E1 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games
“The Pale Horse”

With melodramatic poses and distinct costuming choices, this makes it a lot of fun to sketch.

Digital sketches of people from S3 E1 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games
“The Pale Horse”

It’s particularly fond of warm reds and mint greens.

Digital sketches of people from S3 E1 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games
“The Pale Horse”

The sketches above are from “The Pale Horse”, and those below are from “The Protheroe Mystery”.

Digital sketches of people from S3 E2 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games
“The Protheroe Mystery”
Digital sketches of people from S3 E2 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games
“The Protheroe Mystery”
Digital sketches of people from S3 E2 of Agatha Christie's Criminal Games
“The Protheroe Mystery”

For other TV sketching, see the TV SKETCHING category.

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Map: Western Massachusetts Bookstores

A map!

Photo of newspaper page showing illustrated bookstore map

The map of Western Massachusetts bookstores, which I started in 2019 (while sitting in Book Moon in Easthampton) and which was delayed by, well, 2020 and 2021, is now out and about!

Close-up of dip-pen nib drawing bats

It has been in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and you can also get a copy from Book Moon directly.

Close-up of illustrated bookstore map printed on newsprint

I pinched these photos from their social media.

Photo of newspaper information on Independent Bookstores Day 30 April 2022

If you are in their area on Independent Bookstore Day (30 April), a number of the shops in the area will have limited special edition offers and freebies, and Book Moon have already started their 50% off sale on used history, biography, art and travel books.

Close-up of drawing of bear and cubs in ink