Thought, Drew, Created!

 

One of my first posts on this blog back in January 2016 was a brief review of Think, Draw, Create!, an art journal-type sketchbook from Parragon Publishing (here). As I demonstrated, I had set myself the challenge to complete a page a week and posted updates of my progress (here and here). Another year has now gone by and I have finally completed every task in the book. Above are some examples that I am particularly pleased with.

As I have said before, Think, Draw, Create! was produced with the intention of helping creatives to nurture their imagination. With over 100 prompts, the book encourages would-be artists to contemplate ideas outside the constraints of linear thinking. The instructions are a mix of literal and figurative tasks that challenge both the brain and artistic skill.

Some pages are fairly straightforward – “Draw something hot.” “Add flames to these candles.” “Design a book cover for a spy novel.” – complete with tailor-made illustrations as starting points. However, some instructions are more obscure, causing thought and careful planning before pen can be put to paper. Examples of these are “Draw this wolf’s howl.” “Draw a joke.” “Draw a wish.” “Draw blue submerged in yellow.” The remaining pages provide the opportunity to illustrate whatever you wish, the only restriction being the colourful or textured background design.

Think, Draw, Create! is not about producing perfect artwork, instead, it is focused on ideas and preparation. Although instructions are given, they are open for interpretation. Many people struggle to think for themselves and need precise direction in order to complete anything. This book is an opportunity to develop a new way of processing instruction and a safe place to increase confidence in your own abilities. Instead of “Draw a bear,” we are asked to “Draw a bear that is late.” The first instruction would have resulted in a range of bears from polar and grizzly to Teddy, however, the latter requires more thought. Not only must we decide what the bear looks like, we need to consider the situation, where he is, why he is late and how is he dealing with this.

The pre-existing illustrations featured in this book have been drawn by Eleanor Carter, an art and design lecturer at Sussex Coast College Hastings. She has used a range of techniques including printmaking and collage as well as drawing to create a fun, light-hearted atmosphere in which to create your own artwork. The imprecise, rough appearance of Eleanor’s illustrations encourages would-be artists not to attempt to be too perfect in their designs and to embrace varied styles and technique.

Since completing the book, I have been able to look back and see the developments I have made in my thinking and drawing ability. I already had a preferred drawing style that had blossomed whilst I was at college, but by taking on these tasks I have been able to expand and evolve my drawing technique.

If someone were to have asked me to draw a picture in 2015, it would almost certainly be a black and white sketch produced with a fine-tipped pen. I never used colour (something that was often mentioned in feedback from tutors) unless I was adding it in digitally – something that was not an option in this book. Initially, I stuck to my monochromic approach, after all the pages already had coloured backgrounds. Eventually, I broke out the coloured pencils and bravely attempted a coloured illustration. I was not disappointed.

Below are a few of my favourite outcomes, all but one coming from pages that gave free rein to do as you pleased. The one directly below was the penultimate task in the book, which instructed me to draw something brave. Admittedly, I did not think about this one for long (to be honest, I struggled with thinking up unique ideas in general) and decided to draw a superhero. For many of my drawings, I researched online for visual references to draw from, so after finding a sketch of Superman, I drew my own version, adding colour to finish. A friend loved this outcome so much, she has a scanned version of it framed on her wall.

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On the first set of pages with the space to do anything, I decided to draw a portrait of a friend. Naturally, I had not altered my illustration style at this point, therefore it looks similar in technique to many other portraits I have produced in the past. However, I am still pleased with the result. I had lost confidence in my drawing ability and seriously doubted I would have been able to create a likeness again, yet I proved myself wrong.

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These final two examples are my favourite outcomes. On a whim, I decided to experiment with pointillism. Whilst searching for inspiration, I had come across an illustration of Matt Smith as the Doctor in Doctor Who, which had been drawn in a similar style to my own. However, I had a vivid image in my mind about how it would look shaded with dots instead of cross-hatching. Since the facial features were cropped out of the image, I was able to draw a brief outline in freehand (I often trace photographs to get proportions correct) then began filling it in with tiny dots. It took many hours to complete, spread over several days, but it was completely worth it.

In keeping with the Doctor Who theme, I decided on a Cyberman for the facing page. Using a vector image I had saved on my phone, I used the same method of pointillism to shade in the robot-like creature. I am still pleased with this particular illustration and often stare at in disbelief. Did I really draw that?

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Think, Draw, Create! has been a lot of fun and has given me the opportunity to draw without the added pressure of deadlines and perfection (okay, that’s a lie. I struggle with perfectionism). I definitely recommend purchasing this book if you are looking to enhance your creativity. It is suitable for all ages and abilities and has certainly helped me develop my own skill.

Getting Published – Thoughtfully

Networking Thoughtfully
The 30 Minute Read That Could Change Your Life

A year ago, three friends were sat around a table when one asked “what is your dream?” The answers ranged from the farfetched – to ride a unicorn (ask me something on the spot and you will not get a sensible answer) – to the more possible, but mostly wishful thinking. The one answer that stuck out the most was “To get my book published.”

Having not known Martin had written a book, I was interested to find out more. On the understanding that I would write a review, Martin gave me a copy to read. [See review below] Naturally I did as I was asked, and produced a positive review of the manuscript, yet Martin’s dream was continually on my mind. What is the point of a review if the product or book is not available for purchase?

After a little internet research, I put forward the idea that Martin could email copies of his work to various publishing companies. The trouble was, he no longer had a digital version of his book, only a printed copy. Nevertheless, refusing to give up, I offered to retype the entire manuscript.

With digital copy now to hand, it was time to brave sending it out to publishers. Being digital phobic, Martin left that task down to me. Doubtful that I would get any response, I first emailed a few of the large, well-known companies, and was predictably proved right. Yet, this was nothing to worry about; during my research I had sourced nine self-publishing companies. So, they were my next focus.

Eventually, I received two responses from self-publishing companies interested in Martin’s book. One was a bit vague on details about the process, however the other, and incidentally the first to reply, looked really promising.

The company Martin opted for was Matador, a self-publishing service belonging to Troubador Publishing Ltd. The various staff we spoke to, either through email (me) or phone (Martin) were extremely helpful, explaining the processes, costs, and making sure the book was printed to our complete satisfaction. They even encouraged Martin when he had doubts about the quality of his work by declaring that they only publish books they deem good enough.

The next month or so consisted of emails being sent back and forth containing updated manuscripts. Firstly, a proofreader made a few corrections (some of which I pointed out as incorrect!), then digital proof copies were put together in the format that they would be printed. These I proofread thoroughly, pointing out a few errors, until satisfied with the final version.

All of this occurred at the beginning of Autumn 2016, leaving us a long wait until the publication date of February 2017. We were not forgotten however, particularly as Martin had payments to make, but were also kept up-to-date of the book’s progress. This included an Advance Information sheet, containing quotes from the review I wrote at the beginning of this journey.

Here is the review:


Networking Thoughtfully
Martin Wheadon
*****

Are you the kind of person that struggles with networking? Do you have to strain to come up with satisfactory conversation starters? Is making business deals with other people something you find challenging? Then Networking Thoughtfully is exactly what you need. This short book by Martin Wheadon is a guide for people who need to build relationships but do not know where to start. With simple points, Wheadon takes readers through a step-by-step process to help achieve positive results.

With over thirty thoughts, the reader is taken through clever ideas to boost their confidence and communication skills. The advice is written clearly, accompanied with examples to help get the most of the author’s guidance. The tone of the writing is almost conversational, resulting in the sense that the author understands your anxieties and is talking from personal experience.

Although written with business gain at the forefront, Networking Thoughtfully can also be used to aid personal development. Learning how to start conversations and come up with ways to introduce yourself is beneficial when meeting new people regardless of the circumstances.

The book itself is set out neatly making it easy to follow. It is also easy to dip in and out, reading only the parts relevant to yourself, though if you wish to read it cover to cover it will only take half an hour.

Whether you are new to networking or want to improve your skills, Networking Thoughtfully is an excellent book to read. You are guaranteed to learn something new and develop techniques that benefit both your business and yourself.


As you can tell from the review, Networking Thoughtfully has a specific target audience and needed someone to find the potential buyers. Martin, naturally, knew many contacts from his years in banking, however Matador do not leave authors to fend for themselves. One of their services is Marketing, and so we could sit back in the knowledge that someone was revealing this book to the world.

On 28th February 2017, Networking Thoughtfully was born. Martin’s dream had come true. His book had been published, our goal achieved. The book publishing journey was over … or was it only beginning?

Since February, Martin has been interviewed live on Talk Radio Europe and featured in the business section of the local newspaper. More recently, Networking Thoughtfully has been listed on Book Monthly for the month of April 2017.

In March, Martin and I got the opportunity to meet two of the Matador team, who have been particularly helpful throughout the publishing process, at The London Book Fair. It was lovely to put faces to the names I had been emailing for the past months, as well as to see Networking Thoughtfully displayed amongst all their other latest publications.

Networking Thoughtfully is now available in paperback and ebook from various online sources, including Troubador and Amazon. It is, of course, also available at all good book shops. Alternatively, why not order it from the local library?

When three friends sat around a table discussing their dreams, they did not consider any of them coming true. But now a book has been published, and who knows where this exciting venture could lead?

Now it is my turn … Where is my unicorn?!

Who Says Pandas are All Black and White?

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Anne Belov is a satirical cartoonist with an obsession for pandas. She has published several books in The Panda Chronicles and has now produced a colouring book to go with the series. Pandas may seem like a peculiar subject for a colouring book since they are, as Belov puts it, “chromatically challenged,” however the world around them is bursting with different tints and shades.

The pandas featured in The Panda Chronicles are not the typical bears you might see in a zoo, or endangered in the wild. Anne Belov’s pandas get up to all sorts of mischief. In this colouring book you can expect to find pandas in all sorts of locations, wearing a variety of odd outfits, taking part in highly suspicious activities. So despite monochromatic fur, there is so much to add colour to.

The Panda Chronicles Colouring Book contains approximately 60 single sided illustrations. Although the paper feels quite thin, the lack of anything on the reverse means that it is safe to use any medium you wish to fill the drawing with colour.

Belov’s drawing approach is not the typical style of the hundreds of colouring books you see in stores – i.e. thick, precise lines and patterns. Belov sticks to her sketchy manner that she has used in all the chronicles thus far. In fact there is reason to believe (although do not quote this) that many of the illustrations are from the original books. While standing out in such a niche market, these particular pages may be more difficult to colour in. Some contain many scribbles rather than clear objects, however that does not detract from the overall fun guaranteed with this book.

Pandas in unconventional settings are a great cause for hilarity and satire. Not only is it funny that these bears are parodying human life, but the things they are up to are highly amusing. One particularly comical scene contains a mother panda telling her child off for being the cause of the LEANING Tower of Pisa, to which the youngster protests, “I didn’t do it! It was leaning when we got here!” The wittiness continues throughout the remainder of the book.

I bought this book hoping it would be suitable for my “pandamaniac” friend, who on occasion tells farcical stories about her (imaginary) friend Miss Panda. Anne Belov’s colouring book is the absolutely perfect present for her. It is almost as if the scenes are written/drawn about Miss Panda herself, despite the artist and my friend having never met… Unless… oh the horror! Maybe Miss Panda IS real!

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Where’s Wally? The Colouring Book

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                                              The ultimate colouring challenge!

Everyone knows who Wally is. Created by Martin Handford, Wally first appeared in the book Where’s Wally? in 1987, and has since become famous throughout the world. The aim of the book is to locate Wally and all of his friends in numerous crowded, hand-drawn scenes.

Whilst the colouring book franchise is taking the world by storm, what better time to release a Where’s Wally? colouring book? The idea is the same as the previous Handford publications, in that the ultimate aim is to find Wally; however in this instance it is also left up to you to add the colour to the scenes.

Where’s Wally? fans will recognize many of the drawings from the original books, and therefore will already know where Wally is hiding – but it is much harder to spot him without his traditional red and white stripes being shaded in.

There are twenty-seven double-paged scenes to colour in and keep you entertained for hours. Those familiar with Handford’s illustrations will be aware of the detail he includes; and yes, you are meant to colour ALL of it! This colouring book will definitely take you a while to complete. The downside to such detailed pages is that there are so many tiny elements to add colour to. You will need to keep your pencils sharpened and sit in a well-lit area.

The pages are quite thick, but as they are double sided I would be wary of using felt-tip pens. Perhaps test them on the title page first to make sure they do not bleed through to the other side. Also, only fine tipped pens will be suitable in order to stay within the lines.

Many people believe that colouring is childish, but this book proves otherwise. You will need lots of control and patience in order to finish this book. Good luck.

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Addicted to colouring as I am, I needed a book I could easily pack in my hand luggage when I went abroad. It needed to be light weight, paper back, and full of easy relaxing patterns.

colouring-book-resized3 In Tiger I came across this beautiful book for only £2. It contains 80 pages, double sided, which is more than enough to keep you occupied, but is still a thin, easily packable colouring book. It is approximately 22.2 x 22.2cm, still quite large, but a good size for my on-flight bag.

Pictured above are nine, completed, examples of the patterns and images included in this book. It does not reveal who the artist is, but presumably it has been put together by one person as the style remains consistent throughout.

I have to admit that a few of the designs are rather peculiar. Some have completely black backgrounds with a limited amount of sections to colour, whereas others have large white spaces. There are a few that contain actual images, for instance, animals, flowers, feathers, but most are patterns, some more random than others. I like colouring in patterns as I enjoy making my own rules when adding colours, however I have come across a couple that are rather uninspiring. The 8th image pictured above is an example of this. I am unsure of the artist’s intention.

What I like most about this book is the thick lines that help prevent smudges. They are a great guide to help you keep within the lines. This makes it a suitable book for children as well as adults, although whether a child would cope with the intricate patterns is a different issue.

Whether you are looking for a lightweight colouring book, or something cheap, I suggest you take a look in your local Tiger store and see what they have to offer. You are guaranteed a bargain. However, be aware that they change their stock often, so once they are gone they are gone!

 

 

Start Where You Are

A journal for self-exploration

Start Where You Are is a “self-help” journal put together by an American artist, Meera Lee Patel.It is a book that causes you to think and contemplate about your day, behaviour, life and dreams.

91i5z-42velMeera Lee has used her self-taught artistic talents to produce beautiful, hand-rendered typographic compositions for every page of the book. She has selected appropriate quotations that relate to a task she has set the reader on the facing page.

Most of the tasks throughout the book require the reader to think carefully and write down their answers. Each instruction is to help people sort through their true feelings and put their thoughts into some kind of order. For example: “What is something you wish you could leave behind?”

Although Start Where You Are has not (yet) be medically approved by mental health professionals, it contains a lot of deep, meaningful, assignments that can help you to learn more about your own insecurities, anxieties and depression. Meera Lee admits in her introduction that it took her a long time to be comfortable with her own life and spent a lot of time waiting for the future to arrive, but not really knowing how to get there. She discovered that in order to move forward she needed to find out who she really was, what was important to her, and what she wanted out of life. Meera Lee confesses that this is no easy task and warns that some questions within the book will be harder than others – but ultimately Start Where You Are will reveal your true personality, hopes and dreams, and convince you that life is not all doom and gloom.

There is no right or wrong way to complete this book. It is not a course or a linear activity, therefore there is no need to complete the pages in order. Some pages may feel too difficult, which is not a problem – the book’s purpose is not to cause stress – you can skip that task and come back to it when you are ready.

I have found Start Where You Are very interesting so far. I particularly enjoy reading the quotes included in the fantastic artwork. They are all positive and inspiring, showing the brighter side of life. As an artist, I have decided to also use this book as a way of practising my art skills. Recently art journal photographs that have appeared on Pinterest have been inspiring me to make my own. Instead of starting with a blank book I am using Meera Lee’s publication instead. On each page I complete the task given, but instead of merely writing my answers down, I display them in some sort of typographic or illustrative composition. So not only is Start Where You Are benefitting my mental health and thought processes, it is helping to improve my art skills too.

I highly recommend Start Where You Are for everyone feeling a little lost and unsure about the future. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder or are going through a low period of your life, this book is perfect for you to help pick yourself up again. But please remember this is not a form of therapy and is not going to “fix” you. It will either be a bit of fun or something insightful depending on how you approach it.

Learning to Draw

Many people ask me how I learnt to draw, and the most honest answer is “I don’t know.” I never had drawing lessons, art classes at school consisted of copying rather than learning how to, and, to be perfectly honest, I passed my Art GCSE with a grade C and appalling artistic ability. My two years of Graphic Design A Level were purely computerised and it was not until my second year of my BA that I realised that I COULD draw – or as the tutors saw it, EVERYONE can draw.

In some ways it feels like I suddenly developed the ability to draw, but in hindsight I think the skill was always there but I needed someone to explain the method of drawing and what to look for – something I will always be grateful to my degree tutors for.

As I look back over the artwork I have produced I can see a marked improvement over time, even in the past few months. It is not possible to create your masterpiece on your first try with no experience behind you. Everyone needs a starting place, and mine, I believe, was when I received some Draw 50 books for Christmas 2008 (or 2007? I forget).

Draw 50 is a series of six books by the late-American artist Lee. J. Ames. Each book contains fifty step-by-step methods of drawing realistic images. Of the six I had four: AnimalsHorses, Endangered Animals and Flowers; and by using these instructions I produced the first ever drawings I was proud of.

My favourite book was Flowers, which I found much easier to draw. It helps that if you go a little bit wrong, the drawing still looks like a flower, whereas if you draw an animal incorrectly it looks horribly misshapen. I also found that, although all the books were by the same artist, the Endangered Animals contained so much more detail that it was almost impossible to produce a perfect replica.

It is that idea of a “perfect replica” where the flaws of these types of book emerge. Draw 50 did not teach me to draw. They taught me to copy. My friends complimented me on a drawing of a horse, but did that mean I could draw horses? No, it meant I could copy that particular horse in the book. There are no written instructions as to what to look for when drawing the animals or flowers in real life.

Yet, these books gave me a starting point on my artistic journey. They gave me the opportunity to practise holding a pencil, creating line marks, shading etc. Also, learning to copy is not necessarily a bad thing. Whether you are drawing something from a step-by-step guide, from a photograph or from life, you are essentially copying what is in front of you. I often rely on photographs or even line drawings as a starting point for the art I am producing today… so am I any better than I was when I was sixteen and using the Draw 50 books?

I do recommend the Draw 50 series (or any step-by-step books) for the wannabe artists, the people who wish they could draw. It is a great way of boosting your confidence about drawing. However if you are serious about becoming an artist you need to be able to move on from these guides and learn about different drawing techniques so that you can draw (or copy) the things you see around you. And, do you want to know a secret? I am still learning with every piece of art I produce!

Below are three examples of drawings I made using these books (2009, aged 17)