Portraits and stories from the nursing home

My grandmother spent her last few years in a nursing home, and after my visits with her, I would always wish I'd listened more (wisdom! stories! life lessons! history!). Even though I cared immensely and wanted to make fulfilling conversation with her and her friends, I felt nervous about what to say and unsure how to interact. This really bothered me, and I've been ruminating since on how to be more present and at ease in similar situations.

Recently, it occurred to me that art might be my gateway.

After contacting the nearby nursing home, I arranged to go in for an hour every couple of weeks to draw quick portraits of any residents that would like to sit for me. For now, I'm choosing the all-one-line technique (drawing without lifting my pen), as it is not only fast (5–10 minutes per portrait), it does not allow for fussing over mistakes. The process forces me to stay present and allow for whatever happens to happen. It also gives me a chance to look — truly look — at the face of each person, and listen as she or he tells me stories of falling in love, past careers, and children raised.

Here are some of the people I've had the chance to work with...

Kendra Shedenhelm_Continuous Line Drawing_NursingHome_Portrait1
Kendra Shedenhelm_Continuous Line Drawing_Portraits_2
Kendra Shedenhelm_Continuous Line Drawings_Portraits_3
Kendra Shedenhelm_Continuous Line Drawing_Portrait_4
Kendra Shedenhelm_Continuous Line Drawing_Portrait_5
Kendra Shedenhelm_Continuous Line Drawing_Portrait_6

 

 

 

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Although I'm a little late on posting this, I read Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman for book club in February, and I found it incredibly inspiring. I think it about daily.

I never studied Van Gogh in college, and I really only knew that he was mentally ill, cut off his own ear and was friends with Gauguin. But the story that Ms. Heiligman has weaved together through the letters between him and his brother told of a kind, thoughtful and extremely hard-working artist. He was dedicated to becoming a better and better draftsman and painter, and he consistently sought his brother's feedback on how he could improve. I was surprised to learn that he struggled with color (as do I), and he worked diligently to develop and modernize his palette. I was so impressed.

This book has much to offer — it's a passionate tale and also educational and inspirational. I highly recommend!

The portrait below was my take on Vincent shortly after I finished the book.

Kendra Shedenhelm_Arteza_Van Gogh Portrait

I won an Illustration Friday challenge! #stoked

I love Illustration Friday, and I've been using their prompts to create new work since 2015.

A couple weeks ago, amidst a dearth of gray days and a cloudy head, I found out that I won a challenge! It was exactly what I needed to kick start a better frame of mind. Thank you once again, Illustration Friday!

Here is my collage for the "Twins" prompt (as promoted on Instagram):

Kendra Shedenhelm_TWINS_Illustration Friday_Collage

New Batch of Greeting Cards Available #moocards

I am in love with the quality of moo cards, and I use them almost exclusively when selling my art in card form. Here's my latest batch for the local birding and nature store, Feed the Birds.

Kendra Shedenhelm_Watercolor Birds_Feed the Birds_Greeting Cards

This was a custom pack, so I don't have any more on hand, but please check out my cards in my Society6 shop or contact me personally to get your own custom batch. Thank you!

Farm Animal Pillows launched via Creative Co-op

At the Atlanta Market this past January, more of my Watercolor Animal collection was launched — pillows! Thank you, Creative Co-op!

I received a couple samples, and they look great. Excellent quality pillow, too. Yep, stoked again.

Kendra Shedenhelm_Farm Animals_CreativeCoop

Awards and Reviews for The Historical Heroines Coloring Book

My cover illustration for Historical Heroines is now a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award! You can learn more here. Thrilled!

Elizabeth_HistoricalHeroines_Cover_FN_forUpload.indd

I also recently caught this awesome review of Historical Heroines by Lois Henderson. Stoked! Thank you, Lois!

“...the extent of work that has gone into writing and illustrating the work shows that it is a true labor of love (as behooves any work that ardently supports the feminist cause, even in the most subtle of ways)” BOOK REVIEW by Lois Henderson

Author Elizabeth Lorayne seems to be on a roll, winner or finalist of several other Indie Book Awards, such as the fabulous Moonbeam Award and the Eric Hoffer Award. Read about them here: https://www.historical-heroines.com/press/

Have a review of the HH Coloring Book to share? Please let us know!

Homeschooling and The Historical Heroines Coloring Book

Homeschooling and looking for engaging lessons about history and science? Try The Historical Heroines Coloring Book!

 A dear friend recently contacted me about his sister who homeschools her daughter and has incorporated the book I recently illustrated into her lesson plan. (Love!)  (My friend's response upon seeing this coloring page by his niece): "Yay!! And do you quiz her about the people that she colors after? I’m curious if it helps with learning."  (Her reply) "Yes, I make her tell me about them and she recaps. I think it does help because it breaks up the plainness of most book work and lets her be creative while learning."   

A dear friend recently contacted me about his sister who homeschools her daughter and has incorporated the book I recently illustrated into her lesson plan. (Love!)

(My friend's response upon seeing this coloring page by his niece):
"Yay!! And do you quiz her about the people that she colors after? I’m curious if it helps with learning."

(Her reply)
"Yes, I make her tell me about them and she recaps. I think it does help because it breaks up the plainness of most book work and lets her be creative while learning."

 

I'm so thrilled about working on this Historical Heroines project. I've had several messages from friends like this one. The information really seems to sink in with this coloring activity, and there's curiosity for more.

If you have a story or an image you'd like to share with me about your experience with The Historical Heroines Coloring Book, please feel free to email me or tag me on Instagram. I'd love to hear from you!

 

What is an #alloneline drawing?

I took an excellent online course with Von Glitschka awhile back, called the 21 Day Drawing Challenge. One of the prompts is to draw an image without lifting the pen. Just one intuitive, free-flowing line. It has been such a fun activity for me, and it really captures the something-from-nothing feeling that I can get when I create. If you ever feel stuck or concerned about perfection, I encourage you to try it.

Some of my recent all-one-line drawings are below. To see posts of other artist's #alloneline drawings, search the hashtag on Instagram. Cool stuff.

 All-one-line drawing of a girl saying grace (image referenced from the Internet Archives), ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of a girl saying grace (image referenced from the Internet Archives), ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

 All-one-line drawing of a woman with headpiece, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of a woman with headpiece, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

 All-one-line drawing of ladies having coffee, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of ladies having coffee, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Thanksgiving and our ornament-painting tradition

Just about every Thanksgiving holiday since my son came along, my parents will drive from Illinois to New York to stay with us for the week. Aside from a daily walk that I take with my dad and some dinners out here and there, we tend to keep plans minimal. However, one plan we have made so frequently that it has now become a Thanksgiving tradition, is to stop at the local pottery place to paint ornaments for each other. It surprises me every year how enjoyable and calm it is to paint with my parents, and the pay off of memory and gift is huge.

 Painted ornaments by my parents, my son and me. Thanksgiving 2017

Painted ornaments by my parents, my son and me. Thanksgiving 2017

 My parents painting away. Thanksgiving, 2017.

My parents painting away. Thanksgiving, 2017.

 

 

Thanksgiving, family and a free coloring page

My parents drove in from Illinois this Thanksgiving holiday, and we spent an unusual amount of time drawing and coloring. My son has gotten really into what he calls "flare cards" — kind of like monster cards with different strength qualities — and we all pitched in to make about 50 or 60 over their visit. I also made copies of some of my line drawings, like the cups below, and we added color, designs, and my dad even made his into a family tree.

If you'd like to have a copy of my cups drawing for your own family activities, you can find a free, hi-res version here. I'd love to see what you create, so please don't hesitate to email me at kendra.shedenhelm (at) gmail.com or tag me on Instagram. I hope you enjoy it!

 Cups drawing, free download available  here

Cups drawing, free download available here

 My son added various designs, while my dad made them into a family tree (pets included!)

My son added various designs, while my dad made them into a family tree (pets included!)

 An example of Flare Cards. Just need blank index cards and an imagination for monster-creating.

An example of Flare Cards. Just need blank index cards and an imagination for monster-creating.

What's been happening this year: Update 5 of 6

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to get my copy of Cricket magazine. I loved every single illustration, and I wondered about the artists who were so lucky to have their work in there. I wanted to know these artists, and I hoped to be one some day.

So... a few months ago I was hired to illustrate for Cricket Magazine! Huge! I cried when I read the request. I cried, and then I called my mom.

Here is my watercolor for Carol MacKay's poem, Basset (Nov/Dec issue)...

 My basset hound illustration in Cricket magazine!

My basset hound illustration in Cricket magazine!

What's been happening this year: Update 4 of 6

Update #4: The Historical Heroines coloring book!

This was hands down one of the coolest projects I've ever been a part of. I couldn't be more grateful to have been chosen as the illustrator.

Crowd-funded and quickly labeled as a "Project We Love" on Kickstarter, this coloring book was conceived by the brilliant, eco-conscious and science-minded author Elizabeth Lorayne.

As explained from her site, "The Historical Heroines Coloring Book: Pioneering Women in Science from the 18th and 19th Centuries was born out of a desire to inspire and empower children, teens, and adults with coloring pages celebrating 31 women in science who followed their passions and let their brilliance and hard work speak for themselves — making significant impacts in our world."

For several months, I was fortunate to spend my days researching, drawing and painting these various STEM heroines. I read their histories, their personal letters, their eulogies. Because of this project, I now study bugs as they crawl by, I pay attention to the leaves and their growth patterns on my walks, and I look at the sky with much more curiosity. Elizabeth's desire to inspire worked!

I'll update my blog soon with some excerpts of the completed book, but here are a few of the sketches I made along the way...

 

 Portrait of Mary Somerville, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait of Mary Somerville, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

 Portrait of Alice Ball, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait of Alice Ball, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

 Portrait study of a young Beatrix Potter, watercolor, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait study of a young Beatrix Potter, watercolor, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

What's been happening this year: Update 3 of 6

Coloring pages!

Although I'd drawn a few free coloring pages here and there (and here!), it wasn't until last fall that I was hired to create them.

This first job was for friend and colleague Elizabeth Lorayne, author of the Piratess Tilly series, who asked for colorable elements for a local kids' event (it turned out to be a warm up for a later project).

A couple of previews below...

 Drawing of a chimney swift, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Drawing of a chimney swift, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

 Drawing of a bird's wing, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Drawing of a bird's wing, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

What's been happening this year: Update 2 of 6

I started licensing my work! So stoked!

Last fall, after an extremely helpful call with Giuseppe Castellano of The Illustration Department, I decided to revisit the resources in SCBWI's "The Book." I focused on a small group of art directors and agents that I'd like to work with, and I sent out emails to all of them. I am now fortunate to be represented by Lori Nowicki and Liz Wain of Painted Words licensing, and I couldn't be more grateful.

 Watercolor of a scarlet ibis. One of the images picked up by  GreenBox Art + Culture  for 2018, watercolor and pencils, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Watercolor of a scarlet ibis. One of the images picked up by GreenBox Art + Culture for 2018, watercolor and pencils, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

 Debut of my licensed watercolors with  GreenBox Art + Culture  for 2017 (image posted on Instagram by my agent, Liz Wain of  Wain's World  and  Painted Words Licensing

Debut of my licensed watercolors with GreenBox Art + Culture for 2017 (image posted on Instagram by my agent, Liz Wain of Wain's World and Painted Words Licensing

What's been happening this year: Update 1 of 6

Hello again!
I cannot believe it's been over a year since my last post! This will be the first of a series of short updates of what I've been working on the past 13 months....

November of 2016:

Three local, award-winning businesses that I love began carrying individual collections of my note and greeting cards. Wonderful shops with stellar products and customer service: Sunshine & Clover, Feed the Birds and Baked by Susan.

Kendra Shedenhelm, Notecards for Baked by Susan, Croton on Hudson
Kendra Shedenhelm, Greeting cards for Sunshine & Clover, Croton on Hudson, NY
Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm, card for Feed the Birds, Croton on Hudson

Back to "When in doubt..."

In 2013, when I first started illustrating, I wrote a post titled, "When in doubt, cut it out," which emphasized how helpful cutting paper can be for shaping my characters. Since cleaning up my studio space a couple weeks ago, another perk for paper scraps would be free, no-pressure experimenting.

Although the difficult-to-cut corners, accidentally-torn details, and bends and warps of the paper can frustrate the heck out of me, these same problems liberate me. I've been treating it as a big Who Cares exercise. And, as the composition is whisked away by my cat jumping on my desk, I feel unattached and able to try something else.

Kendra Shedenhelm_Bird_Paper Cutout_Sketch
Kendra Shedenhelm_Horse_Paper Cutout_Sketch
Kendra Shedenhelm_Bird on a Branch_Paper Cutout_Sketch