Focusing on women and the body

It’s been a very long time since I’ve studied the human body in its nakedness or almost nakedness. I find myself embarrassed in front of a not fully-clothed model, and I shirk away from live sketch nights because of it.

For a recent pitch, however, I was prompted to look more at the female form, looking at her — staring! — and drawing her in all of her shapes and personality. I found it to be so much fun. Not embarrassing at all. Who knew?

Below are some of my recent line drawings…

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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...

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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

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

First assignment with MATS Bootcamp 2016

I enrolled in another year of Lilla Rogers' Make Art That Sells Bootcamp. Previous years' assignments have included creating art for a phone cover, illustrating an online editorial, and making a holiday plate/paper collection. I find that MATS Bootcamp is an exceptional way to try new materials and markets, and the class has really helped to develop my portfolio. 

Lilla starts all of her course assignments with a "Mini." This is a just-for-fun exercise, which includes a little research of a given topic and a whole lot of no-pressure creating and experimenting. For this first month's assignment, our Mini was 1920s hairstyles. I found a ton of cool photos online, and I drew and drew. It was a surprisingly inspiring subject for me, and I found myself drawing more portraits in general that week.  

After one week with the Mini, we received our full assignment, which was to assemble our drawings and ideas into a faux cover for an adult coloring book. After drawing several faces, hairstyles and patterns, I went with this as my final submission....