Category Archives for Creativity

Learn Expressive Drawing in Pen and Ink

Have you ever wondered what it's like to draw freely and loosely? Not worrying too much about rendering photographic likeness? That's what Expressive Drawing is all about!

And, one of my favourite medium for expressive drawing is pen and ink. It hasn't always been the case, though.

There was a time when I was mostly frustrated with using these lovely looking pen holder with nibs with ink. I really love the look of them but I had trouble making these tools do what I wished to do. However, the moment I understood the tools better, the more I loved them. And now, I'm hooked!

That's why when people started asking me about how I create my expressive drawing pieces in pen and ink, I started putting together this mini tutorial. However, if you would like to learn more about this expressive drawing practice in person, I have a a new workshop coming right up - Expressive Drawing in Pen and Ink Workshop (on 3rd Jun, Saturday, 12-3pm) at Art Stretchers Adelaide. Yes, it's the same place where I held the very successful Expressive Travel Sketching workshop. There's still time to sign-up and join the workshop, if you're based in Adelaide.

Now, here are some basic tips for those who also wish to get started with expressive drawing in pen and ink -

Inky Camera - Inktober Illustration

Iris Ink - Original Hand Drawn Floral Illustration

Sunflower Ink - Digital Art Print

Expressive Drawing in Pen and Ink: What You Need

Pen Nibs - This is probably one of the toughest things to choose, as each individual would have different preferences when it comes to nibs. Thankfully, they're usually inexpensive, so it's not too bad when you buy several to experiment with. I know I ended up with a collection of nibs before I found a handful that I love best.

There are a number of things to consider when it comes to choosing nibs, including size and shape of the tip, the flexibility of the nib, and how ink flows from it. In my experience, I tend to prefer the softer, more flexible nibs with an extra fine tip. My two favourites are: Brause 66EF and Hiro Durchschreib 33.

Some beginners, however, find it difficult to work with these flexible nibs. They tend to be more challenging to load with ink and control the ink flow. I don't mind the unevenness of ink, in fact, the more varied the lines, the more I like it. So, this unevenness doesn't bother me.

For people who might just want of a bit of an easier time loading the pen with ink and controlling the ink flow, I have started using DK Art pen nibs. You can get a set with holder and nibs from sizes 1 to 5 (with 1 being the thickest tip and 5 the finest or thinnest tip). The line variation from these nibs are not as pronounced compared with the Brause and Hiro nibs I mentioned earlier, but these ones are much easier to use. Some people also recommend Nikko G. I like them too, but not as my 'go to' nibs.

Pen Nib Holder. There are usually two basic types: The regular, straight nib holder or the oblique nib holder. They often come in various lengths, colours, etc. - either in wood or plastic. The most popular one is Speedball. For drawing and sketching, I love my plain wooden straight pen nib holder in black. It's unbranded and cost only $5 off Ebay. The DK Art holder is pretty much similar.

Permanent archival ink. There are a number of brands out there and you will find different views and experienced on each one. My current favourite brand is DeAtramentis in Permanent Black. I love it because it dries quickly enough and when it's dry, I am able to use other media on top including watercolour, without the ink smearing or blotching. I have also used Koh-I-Noor inks (different colours) and like it a lot. I have also starting using Art Spectrum* ink, which is an Australian brand. They're pretty much similar to DeAtramentis, but in a plastic bottle instead of glass. They're cheaper and easier to source in Australia.

Drawing Papers/Sketchbooks. There are so many options here and I won't go through all of them. The most important part is to choose an archival, acid-free paper with at least 100gsm. Having said that, I have used plain copy paper and paper that only have 80gsm. They're not as good, but they still work, especially just for practice. My favourite type of paper for this type of work is artist grade cartridge paper that you can buy as a pad. Two brands I have been using regularly are Art Spectrum Cartridge Paper and Quill Cartridge Paper. If you want to use paper that can easily be framed and sold, I suggest using thicker drawing paper (at least 300 gsm) or watercolour paper. My preference is hot pressed (smooth) paper, when I'm using pen and ink.

You will also need a rag (or paper towels or tissues) and a jar of water for this type of work.

Basic Kit for the Expressive Pen and Ink Workshop

This Basic Kit is available for participants of the Expressive Drawing in Pen and Ink Workshop at 20% off at Art Stretchers Adelaide.

To add layer to expressive drawings in pen and ink, here are optional materials that you might want to include:

  • Paint brushes - Any simple, synthetic paint brush would do. Try to get a fine, a medium, and a large brush for various types of work.
  • Paints - Watercolours or gouache work best if you wish to use colour with ink. Or, you can use coloured inks.
  • Additional colouring materials - For mixed media work with ink, brush pens, markers, crayons, watersoluble crayons, colour pencils, and pastels can work well with ink.

Expressive Drawing in Pen and Ink: Top 5 Tips For Beginners

  1. Practice loading and using the nib with ink. Make marks, write letters, and draw shapes to get the feel of your materials. Do this exercise with every nib you own. Regularly work on this mark-making practice using different tools and papers.
  2. Start drawing simple subjects that you can later build on. For example, instead of a full vase of flowers, choose to draw a single flower. Instead of drawing a full scene, just focus on one aspect - a specific object or a special detail.
  3. Enrich your drawing by experimenting with different compositions, as well as making use of tonal value, shadows, and highlights. Dynamic compositions can make a huge difference in your piece. And, using a brush with water, you can add washes to show tonal value and shadows.
  4. Think of layers in your drawing! Add layers by adding colours and textures. But, use them sparingly. Just use enough colours and textures to make your piece 'pop'.
  5. Don't worry about mistakes and imperfections. Part of the beauty of this medium is that such things can be incorporated easily into the piece. Sometimes, they can even be what makes the piece special.
Enrol Now! Join Expressive Drawing in Pen and Ink Workshop

*Art Spectrum is the flagship brand sold at Art Stretchers Adelaide. I occasionally teach art workshops Art Stretchers Adelaide.

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Expressive Travel Sketching Adelaide: Workshop Highlights

It's official: I LOVE teaching travel sketching.

As mentioned in my last post, I conducted my first ever (SOLD OUT!) Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop hosted by Art Stretchers Adelaide.

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide

The workshop was FULLY BOOKED a week before the deadline!

Here's what the management of Art Stretchers said of the event:

"We are so pleased that this workshop was such a great success. Thanks to Shai for making it so interesting. It was great to see participants coming away from it with new skills and a smile on their faces. Well done."

As you can probably imagine, I'm still grinning from ear to ear. The weather was lovely (albeit, a little on the warm side!), the setting was great, and the participants were perfect. I couldn't have asked for a much better group of people to share my love of sketching with. Such enthusiastic, lovely, and talented people!

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop Adelaide - Setup

Getting ready for the workshop - with props, handouts, sketchbooks, hand lettered name tags, and yes - chocolate biscuits!

The workshop began with a quick welcome and introduction. While many were meeting for the first time, it was great to see some people who knew each other, with some participants belonging to the Pastel Arts Society of South Australia + inviting a friend to come along. There was a range of art experiences in the group - from novice to more experienced. But, everyone was keen and ready to learn.

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide

That was me, doing a sketching demo for the exercises. It was interesting to sketch from that angle! 🙂 Photo Credit: Diane O'Brien

We worked on some materials, with The 5S of Travel Sketching as our main guide. We discussed ideas, sample sketches, and more. I also did some sketching demos for the sketching exercises.

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide - 4 Mar 2017

Workshop participants sketching travel souvenirs for one of the sketching exercises.

After covering some of the travel sketching materials and exercises, it was time for an outing! The group headed across the road from Art Stretchers - and into one of Adelaide's beautiful parklands in the city.

Everyone found their own special spot in the shade and were encouraged to sketch en plein air based on some of the earlier discussions, exercises, and sample sketches.

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide

Workshop participants sketching en plein air.

After the quick sketching session (yes, just 15 minutes!), everyone shared their efforts. It was great to see the different styles and approaches that each participant took. It's very much how sketchbooks should be - UNIQUE!

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop Adelaide

Workshop participants are encouraged to explore their individual styles and share their unique perspectives of the world that they see. It's what travel sketching is all about!

Once the first en plein air sketching session was completed, we headed off to the nearest watering hole we could find. I was hoping to find a lovely cafe nearby, but unfortunately, most were shut. So, we ended up at a local pub, where the big, empty tables outside were perfect for our sketching group.

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide

You'd think we actually planned to hire this spot to sketch in the city! Great travel sketching experience practice. 🙂

During this stop, folks did their sketches and I talked to each one about their work. We discussed how you can troubleshoot sketches that seemed like 'disasters'. How to continue sketching, even when you're feeling unsure. And more.

Of course, the coffees and the cold drinks helped (love the Lemon, Lime and Bitters!).

We wrapped up the 'Sip and Sketch' Session to head back to Art Stretchers and debrief. There were a lot of great feedback and ideas that came about. One of my favourites was when one of the participants just said out loud: "This opened up a whole new world for me!"

That was exactly the kind of result I was hoping for!

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide

The final sketches from the workshop, from the "Sip and Sketch" Session. Aren't they gorgeous? 

To view more photos from the workshop, go to the Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide Album on my Facebook Page.

Here's some feedback about the workshop:

The workshop was lovely. It's just what I wanted. The content was excellent and the facilitator was awesome. Will recommend to others!

SK Workshop Participant

The workshop had good coverage for a short course. Shai was a great presenter! Learnt about the basics of keeping sketchbooks and how to use the tools.

HB Workshop Participant

We are so pleased that this workshop was such a great success. Thanks to Shai for making it so interesting. It was great to see participants coming away from it with new skills and a smile on their faces. Well done.

Art Stretchers Adelaide Management

The content of this workshop was excellent! It was explained very well - clearly, concisely, and with passion. Loved Shai's examples, enthusiasm, and encouragement. Thanks Shai, you're a gem!

AHR Workshop Participant

I liked learning how to be 'freer' and seeing Shai's enthusiasm! She was an excellent presenter. The workshop was fun and covered all aspects. I learnt so much and it was enjoyable. Recommended!

Diane O' Brien Workshop Participant / President, Pastel Arts Society of South Australia

The workshop had great content and learning sheets provided. I liked the candid examples of our tutor, Shai. She was very pleasant and informative. I recommend this workshop to others in the future. It's very inclusive and relaxed!

Kay W Workshop Participant

The best thing I learnt was about speed in sketching - letting go of accuracy and not getting hung up on perspective. The workshop was a good mix of chat and practice. Shai was engaging and enthusiastic.

KP Workshop Participant

Everything was explained very well from the supplies to how to find moments to sketch. I enjoyed the setup of the workshop. We even had enough time to head outside and sketch. Shai was very keen to share her experience and ability with everyone.

Angela W Workshop Participant / Manager, Art Stretchers Adelaide

The workshop was quick, precise, to the point. Lots of hands on and very informative content and materials. I learnt a lot in a very short time. This has opened up a whole new world for me!

Astrid H Workshop Participant

Seeing the participants' sketchbooks, their smiles, and their feedback definitely encouraged me to keep doing more of these. So, for those who missed out, I'm hoping that there will be more sketching and other workshops in the future. If you'd like to be notified of future events and workshops in Adelaide, please sign up to the notification list.

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop - Adelaide

Seeing workshop participants deep into their sketches - and smiling! - are the best parts of this day. 🙂

Thanks again to everyone who supported this event:

  • Angela and the Art Stretchers Adelaide crew for making it happen and promoting it so well;
  • Friends/Family/Colleagues who shared the event with their contacts/networks; and of course,
  • The wonderful participants of Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop!

You all made this day incredible!

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Getting Started With Expressive Travel Sketching

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop in Adelaide

Although I've been travel sketching on and off for most of my life, I didn't really take it too seriously until I made the decision to do so. I remember the exact circumstance: I was turning 40 and my husband encouraged me to go on a life-changing art trip to Italy. It was one of those major bucket list things: To go on a trip specifically for my art practice.

I decided that since I was going on an art trip with a group of fellow artists - sans husband and kids - I was going to live out my fantasy of spending most of my days during the trip in the pursuit of art.

Before going on that trip, I prepared for it by researching what would be the best art materials to take with me for travel sketching. I also tried to read as many blogs and books about sketching that I could find. That's when I discovered all about the growing movement of Urban Sketching. I was hooked.

Unfortunately, at the time, I couldn't find any travel sketching or urban sketching classes in my city or online. There weren't as many books available either. So, I just tried to learn as I went along.

So, I packed my travel sketching kit and went on an art adventure. I tried recording my trip from the moment I got on the plane. And, I tried to sketch at least one thing every day - from the streets of Rome and the ruins of Pompeii to the coast of Amalfi and the Tuscan Hills. It was bliss!

My fellow art tour mates were very supportive of my travel sketching practice. They looked at my sketches from the day and asked a lot of questions about sketching materials and techniques. It was then that I began playing with the idea of teaching sketching classes.

I didn't act on that idea immediately. However, I did get invited to teach art classes in a local art studio (the same people who organised the Italy trip). Since then, my art life has evolved and grown a lot. But, that travel sketching class idea was still put on hold.

Then, a couple of months ago, I received a very exciting invitation to hold a workshop at one of Adelaide's wonderful art supplies shop. The manager of the shop is one of my lovely Italy art tour mates. And yes, the best part: I get to teach Expressive Travel Sketching, live in Adelaide.

So, yes, come 4th of March 2017, Saturday, 1 to 4pm, I'll be holding the first ever Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop at Art Stretchers Adelaide. To learn more about the workshop and/or to book your spot, go to this page: Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop (Adelaide).

We're only able to allocate 8 places for this workshop and a few of those places have already been pre-paid and reserved. So, if you want to join us, do book your place soon.

It's our fifth day in London and getting ready for another full on day. Trying to keep up with my #DailyArt posts, even though the order is all over the place. This one's from Day 220.

What Is Expressive Travel Sketching?

In a nutshell: It's all about travel sketching using your own way of expressing what you see in the world.

It's not about getting perfect perspectives and straight lines. It's not about drawing and sketching in photographic ways - you have your camera for that.

Expressive travel sketching is all about recording your experiences using lines, shapes, textures, and colours that speak to you. It's about putting down memories on the pages of your sketchbooks. To make your experiences last longer, better than any photograph could.

In the workshop, I'll be sharing some materials, tips, and techniques to help participants learn how to record their travels in their sketchbooks with confidence and joy.

Realised my last #DailyArt post was from Day 219. It has been so hectic, so haven't had time to post more. Now, here's my first attemp at urban sketching in London. Unfinished sketch of Tower Bridge after a tour of Tower of London, on Day 222. And Day 2 o

How Do You Get Started With Expressive Travel Sketching?

There is no magic formula: You just need to start where you are!

Over the last couple of years, I've been privately sharing information to friends and peers whenever they ask questions about my travel sketching practice. What are the best materials to use and take with you? How do you begin a sketch? How do you sketch quickly?

When pressed for time, all you really need for your travel sketching are two things: Your sketchbook and a pen. They're the only materials I use consistently.

Basic Travel Sketching Kit

When I'm able to take my 'extended' travel sketching kit with me, here's a list of additional basic things I use:

  • Portable Sketchbook - Usually, A5 size or smaller; my favourite right now is a 4x4 inch travel sketchbook I bought from Paris a few months ago. Yes, it's great if you can start collecting sketchbooks and other sketching materials from places you travelled to. I bought my first pen nib and ink in an old paper museum in Amalfi, Italy. And, during a recent trip to England, I bought a set of coloured pens. Such purchases become part of your travel memories.
  • Black Felt Tip Pen - Preferably, one that can create varying lines like a metal pen nib or fountain pen. But, your regular black pen would do (Sharpie, Micron, Artline, Uniball - 0.5 or 0.4). Try to bring at least a couple of back-up pens, in case you misplace or lose one. But, one pen usually lasts a while and they're generally easy to replace (unless you're going some place really remote like the middle of an African bushland).
  • Portable Watercolour Paint Set - You can buy pre-packaged ones with 6  to 12 half-pans of watercolours. Or, you can create your own using an empty travel palette and tubes of paint. Make sure to have your primaries: Red, Blue, Yellow. Other recommended colours: Green, Brown, and Grey or Black. Orange and Purple tend to be easy to mix. But, a nice Pink, Fuschia, or Magenta, as well as Turquoise and Teal  are all a bit tougher to mix. If you think you'll use those colours, best to get them pre-mixed. Some brands to consider include: Winsor and Newton, Golden, and Daler-Rowney.
  • Waterbrushes - These are paint brushes that you can fill with water, so all you need to do is to squeeze it a little to moisten your paints. They're absolutely amazing! I love mine. At a minimum, I like having at least two: one with a fine tip and another one with a broader tip. Usually, round brushes, not flats. If you can only bring one: choose the one with a fine tip. Some recommended brands: Pentel, Sakura, and Art Spectrum.
  • Tissues (Travel Pack) or Rag - For cleaning your brushes between changing colours and at the end of the session. For blotching and/or keeping pages dry. Lots of uses for this!
  • Watercolour Pencils - These are especially handy when you visit places that only allow dry medium (like museums and galleries), so you can add colour to your sketches without dealing with water on the spot. You can always soften the pencil marks with a waterbrush later on. Just 6 to 12 colours would do. There are varying quality and prices for watercolour pencils. For the cheaper range that are still decent: Steadtler, Micador, and Crayola. For higher end and better quality: Prismacolor and Daler-Rowney.
  • Sharpener - Ones that have a case for holding pencil shavings would be best.
  • Mechanical Lead Pencil - Preferably, one with a fine lead (0.5mm). I usually go straight to paint or pen when travel sketching, or use watercolour pencils. But, occasionally, I feel the need for good old pencil for certain techniques and styles. Try to bring at least two, so you have one back-up. Any brand would do. I usually just buy the cheap ones from Big W, Target or any supermarket and newsagent.
  • Water - To keep hydrated and for refilling your waterbrushes. Though you can always refill your waterbrushes during toilet stops or back at your travel accommodation.
  • Travel Sketching Kit Case -  A place to put everything in securely. Mine's an old pencil case that my daughter owned but wasn't using at the time.
  • Camera Phone or Camera - Technically not a sketching material, but it's handy to have. Especially if you wish to record the scene you're sketching, so you can refer to it later if you need to add finishing touches to your sketches. It's also a good tool to use for remembering your sketching session (see photos above, like the one sketch with Tower Bridge).

I usually bring this kit in a separate bag or backpack, together with a DSLR camera and other travel gear. I keep my essentials (i.e., small sketchbook, pen, pencil) in my handbag, so I can easily take them out when there's a quick opportunity to sketch.

Travel Sketching Kit

I'll be sharing more tips and techniques at the Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop. And hopefully, also in future blog posts if any of you are interested. Just let me know through comments or emails!

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Record Your Year With One Word [Free Printable / Interactive PDF]

It's no secret. I'm a big fan of the One Word practice. I love it so much, I ended up writing a workbook and a mini ebook about it.

I'm also a fan of year-end round-ups. I've done it a few times on this blog. Usually, as my last blog post or my first couple of blog posts in the new year.

Sometimes, though, year-end highlights can be a bit overwhelming to write. So, I thought this year, I'd do a different kind of round-up.

This is how I ended up with The Year in One Word printable/interactive PDF worksheet. It's now available for free in our newly revamped* Content Library. So, anyone who wants to look back on their year and record some words to remember their year can do so in a simple manner.

The image below shows the worksheet as a blank printable, which you can print using your own printer and fill out using pens, pencils, and markers. It also features my own filled-in worksheet, which I did using my computer.

The Year In One Word

I'm really pleased with how The Year in One Word printable/interactive PDF worksheet turned out. It's possible I may have spent way too much time designing it. But, I think I'd enjoy using this every year, so I figure that it's worth it. It would be even more worth the time if other people would find it useful too. That's why it's now in the Content Library.

The general idea is that this resource enables us to come up with one word summaries for the year. It has a spot to write down our Word of the Year. Then, each month of the year has a place where we can write a one word summary for that month. If we'd like to add one word (or a few) notes in each month to remember some things, there's a spot for those notes too.

I enjoyed making - and filling-in - this journaling worksheet. It was lovely to look back on the year (even with some of its tough and painful bits)... without feeling overwhelmed with all the writing and journaling.

So, I hope that you would find this useful in recording your year too!

If you're a subscriber, you'll be getting an email with the latest password for the library. If you're not subscribed yet, just sign up and make sure you watch out for your Welcome Email. That's where you'll find the password.

Happy reflecting! And, may your new year be even more amazing!


* The content library has been through several revamps this year, as new resources become available and taking list members' feedback into consideration. My hope is to design and develop a content library that's super useful, beautiful, and simple to access for list subscribers.

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One Word Workbook – Tips + Video Walkthrough

When One Word Workbook launched last week, I was cautiously hopeful. It's something that I've wanted to do and share for so long, I was really hoping that others would love it like I do.

So far, I've heard some great feedback. My biggest pleasure is seeing the workbook actually used by someone to find focus and inspiration.

To show that I'm actually using this workbook for my own One Word of the Year, I decided to do a video walkthrough (see below). It felt a bit odd, reflecting and writing 'in public' - my thoughts, feelings, and experiences laid bare. Granted, it's all sped up, but I still felt quite vulnerable. 🙂

The great part: I'm absolutely certain that the workbook works! As I went through the exercises myself, I found my mind getting clearer with the words that mean something to me this year. And, ones that would help to guide me for the next year. I'll be revealing my Word of the Year in 2017, but you can see in this video now how I got to that point.

Thing is - I knew it would work. As I mentioned in my previous blog post and on the workbook, it is a process that I have been using for years. I even started writing it all up 3+ years ago, thinking I'd create an online workshop. But, I now think that the workbook format is a good one.

In any case, as I was filling out the workbook, I thought I'd share some tips on making the most out of the process:

Tip 1: Answer each exercise as best as you can.

Even if it's just a few words. You don't need to write in full sentences. If you notice in my entries, I used a lot of a just words and phrases. Incomplete thoughts. But, it's good to work on each concept in the process. It really helps!

There were a couple of times I thought I'd skip some, especially since I was doing a video capture. I thought people would understand. But, I also realised that it is detrimental to my own process. So, I kept at it. And I'm glad.

Tip 2: Don't get stuck!

Even if you feel like you only have one or two things to write for now, that's okay. Keep moving! Don't stop. Just allow your mind to unfurl and open itself up on the page. Don't overthink. Reflect, write, and then go to the next item.

Tip 3: Allow yourself to move forward and backward in the process.

Yes, One Word is not necessarily a linear process. If you filled out a box and decided to move on, it's okay to go back. Add some more words, phrases, or sentences to something you thought you've already completed.

Tip 4: Be open!

When I was collecting my words - I didn't discount my sources. I found words from books nearby, receipts, letters, poems, notes, boxes, Post It Notes, and such. I let everything speak to me.

And, in the process, I discovered words that I didn't think I'd even consider on a usual basis. The theme that emerged was completely unexpected, but not a surprise.

Tip 5: Use the resources available.

I've added links and such in the workbook. Make use of it! It's helpful to have an internet connection available, especially if you're filling the workbook out digitally.

If you decide to print out the workbook like Margo Min, have your digital resources handy. Or, at least, keep a dictionary and thesaurus nearby.

Oh, and yes - don't forget to save your work while you're filling out the workbook!

If you haven't got a copy yet, get your One Word Workbook here. And, please do keep me posted. I'd love to know how you're going with your One Word journey!

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