Tag Archives: #shapechallenge

don’t doubt, just draw.

I started an illustration course in January and, with a ‘New Year – Raaaah’ sort of energy, immediately threw myself in to a daily drawing practice. I joined in with #ShapeChallenge on Twitter, drew picture after picture and between January and March I noticed a definite improvement in my ability. I really can’t speak highly enough of doing something creative every day. No matter how limited your abilities at the beginning (or, more to the point, how limited you THINK they are because we all seem to doubt ourselves massively!), you WILL improve and seeing that improvement spurs you on to do more and get better!

So there I was, feeling quite chuffed with myself (‘New Year Raaah’ with a tangible outcome has to be something to be proud of), when in Mid-March I was hit by a whole heap of stuff that totally derailed me from my drawing. I couldn’t find time and, because I was drawing so infrequently, everything I produced on the odd occasion I tried, was rubbish. Honestly, it made me cringe. I totally lost confidence and felt quite fed up about it all.

Then last week I gave myself a huge mental shove. I’d felt like I had no time for drawing because so much of my energy was going into blogging and running the #THISislearning campaign, so I decided to combine the two. I started doing tiny daily cartoons about the sort of activities kids love. The sort where they learn masses without even realising it. Where they experiment and persevere and imagine and create. I shared my first two in my last blog post. Here are my next three:

#THISislearning maths buns

I love maths with a positive outcome. Admittedly, “0+effort = lots” is maths only in a very general sense but still…

creative #THISislearning

I had no idea what this kid was making until I’d drawn it!

puddle fun #THISislearning

This was inspired by this post from Luisa at Teaching Tiny Minds: https://teachingtinyminds.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/making-a-river/

I did tiny pictures because somehow it helped my confidence. I’m not sure why… maybe because drawing big feels more risky (if it’s rubbish it’s a big pile of rubbish) and drawing small feels more safe (less of a potential mess)? Who knows, but I’ve enjoyed doing it.

And then a really fab thing happened – an awesome friend of mine –  Sus @MrsJTeaches – started drawing some #THISislearning pictures too. I LOVE them:

#THISislearning @MrsJTeaches
Since then, a couple of other people have expressed an interest in drawing something for the campaign too (thanks guys!) and it got me thinking that I’d love to put together a gallery of #THISislearning pictures on my blog (and share them on social media of course). And I would love you to join in!

It DEFINITELY isn’t a talent competition it’s really about having a go at something creative and having some fun. In fact, you don’t have to draw, you could paint or glue or photograph a tower of creatively poised bananas or something…

If you’d like to join in just tweet your image @writingbubble using the #THISislearning hashtag. Go on, don’t doubt yourself, create.

Writing Bubble
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how I illustrated my poem

I’ve got an illustrated limerick to share with you today which I created for yesterday’s #ShapeChallenge and today’s Prose for Thought. Instead of just pasting it in right now though, I thought I’d take you – visually as well as descriptively – through my creative process first. I find it helpful seeing how other people got from A to B when writing or drawing something so hopefully it will be interesting to at least some of you!

Ok, so I started with this:
mugshape This was yesterday’s #ShapeChallenge on Twitter and the idea is, you use the shape as inspiration for an illustration of some kind. Well, this just shouted ‘mug’ at me and I decided to go with that.

Then I remembered it was Prose for Thought today and that it would be nice to have a piece of poetry to share for that. I’ll write a limerick! I thought (no surprise there for regular readers!).

Hmmm… mug… mug of tea… right, what rhymes with tea? Bee, knee, see… three! Ooh, I’ve got three kids… right mother of three, cup of tea, ok I can work with that.

rough copy
This is the sheet of paper I figured out my design on. I wrote the limerick in my head and you can see it scribbled down the bottom. I then tried to work out how I wanted to illustrate it. As you can see, I thought about having the cup of tea centre stage (the red spot in the shape would become a cherry on the bun in that instance), with my face behind or next to it. I also toyed with the idea of just having a hand reaching for the tea with a speech bubble. Then I had a go at a little scene where I could be seen relaxing with my tea with my three boys (creating mayhem) around me.

Ultimately, I decided to go for the last idea (though I decided against having a son swinging from the light fitting! In fact, looking at the sketch now, I appear to have five sons…).

mug of teaThis is what I posted on Twitter for #ShapeChallenge yesterday (the idea is you share what you draw).

This morning I went back and tweaked it a bit – my youngest son (playing with trains) was too big, there was something badly wrong with this arms in the picture and he kind of looked like he was rolling off the coffee table.  I also tried to make my eldest son (doing the handstand) look like he had a slightly less broken neck, and I faffed around with my middle son’s face and arms. That lead to:

mug of tea2small
At this point I thought, I wonder what it would look like in colour? And got out my pencil crayons:

mug of tea colour Oh, um, that looks a bit rubbish. Definitely better in pencil…

But how about if I tried felt tips? (I’ve recently bought some posh Faber-Castell ones which I love using.)

So I grabbed them, outlined the whole picture with fine black marker and then coloured  it in. I also used white pen for a few highlights. Here’s the final picture:


mug of tea colour pens I think I might prefer the pencil version actually, but it was fun to try adding colour and thankfully, because I scanned it in first, I still have the earlier version even though the ‘hard copy’ now has ink on it.

There you have it. I’d love to know your thoughts!

Prose for Thought

Creativity and momentum

Last week was all about momentum…

momentum waves

… or the loss of it. I’ve recently come to realise just how strong a force it is when it comes to creative activities and how often I’ve used it in the past.

When my youngest son was a baby I wrote prolifically. I blogged lots, wrote masses of poetry and flash fiction and made significant headway into a novel (or two).  And all while looking after a baby and two young kids on very little sleep! I don’t manage remotely this much now and have often looked back and thought, ‘how did I do it?!’

I’ve now realised that, while I do think I managed to harness the positives of sleep-deprivation (I’m sorry, did I just type ‘positives of sleep deprivation’?!  Yes, it appears I did.) and I also think that motherhood third time round gave me some sort of creative surge, in large part my creativity was down to momentum. I was determined to write while I had the chance, so I did. And because I kept on doing it, I kept on doing it.

I’ve noticed that pattern occurring again over the last few months with my drawing. Until last week I drew a complete picture/illustration almost every day for weeks on end and posted it on Twitter for #ShapeChallenge. Of course this was partially the thrill of a new love affair (with drawing!) but also my old friend momentum lent a huge helping hand.

Then last week the pendulum stopped swinging. I think it had been slowing the week before so the full stop was inevitable but last week, there was too much other stuff going on and *boom* or rather, *muffled squelch* it came to a halt. I wrote a blog post on Monday for #WhatImWriting but that was it for the week. I drew a rather rubbish picture of a disco penguin on Tuesday but similarly, that was all.

Yesterday (Sunday) I forced myself to draw something, and worryingly (for me in that moment) I seemed to have forgotten how to draw altogether. Where a week ago I would have placed pen to paper with reasonable confidence, I couldn’t seem to muster it. I drew a line, rubbed it out, drew, erased it, tried again, scrumpled the paper up. I nearly gave up altogether (especially when my sons’ happy game in the garden while I was doing this descended into tears and mud bombs) but didn’t. I sorted out the tears and the mud and got back to it.

To be honest, for the most part I didn’t enjoy it – the self doubt demon was rubbing his hands in glee and producing the most hideous of ‘haha you can’t draw’ stenches – but I figured I had to keep going. In the end, there was this:iphone distraction

I’m sharing here it because I don’t like it very much, and I’ve learned that putting my work out there is just as – no, even more – important when I don’t like it as when I do. It gets me to stop being precious about it. It’s like flicking that self doubt demon the Vs while simultaneously kicking him in the nuts – “Think it’s rubbish? Haha I’m going to share it anyway!”. I’m not sure how this psychology works but it seems to!

After that, yesterday evening I wrote a blog post about my week. It was really just an attempt to set the writing pendulum swinging again too which I guess it sort of has since I’m writing this!

Now I just need to keep on going. Hopefully I can pick up some momentum sometime soon. If someone could give me a shove that would be great.

Writing Bubble

for the love of shoes

I’ve tried to hit 2016 at a run, creatively speaking, by throwing myself into things and looking for inspiration all over the place. Social media has been immensely useful, particularly Twitter (there are so many creative challenges there! Who’da thunk it? Honestly, not me) and as always, the blogging community has provided me with both ideas and an outlet.

Yesterday I had a look at The Prompt (one of my favourite linkys) and discovered it was the word ‘confusion’. So I figured I’d write a limerick based on that word. I also had a look at my favourite Twitter muse – #ShapeChallenge – to see if could use that as a visual prompt for both the limerick and an illustration for it. It was a double-pronged inspirational approach! I ended up writing and drawing this:

princess shoes limerickThe reason it’s about shoes (although, do I need a reason?) is because the shape (next to my twitter handle in the picture) reminded me of a shoe, and ‘shoes’ kind of rhymes with confused, so I went from there.

Which shoes would you choose? I’m going for the ones that look like ladybirds!

Prose for Thought

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the zipwire to inspiration

Writer’s block is a right old bag of pants isn’t it? I’ve had it before and I dare say I’ll have it again. However, recently I have found a whole, new way to defeat it – through drawing.zipwire words big


Drawing is like a zipwire for my writing muse to swoop towards me on. When all other routes are blocked, she can leap onto the swingy-rope-thingy (technical name – who knows?) and crash straight into my brain from above.

Actually that sounds a bit grisly. I’ll leave your muse to write a more attractive metaphor…

But seriously, I’ve been doing a lot of drawing since the start of this year and what I’ve discovered is that while some drawings are complete as they are, others seem to have a story bursting out of them. Gerald the moustachioed octopus was one. Furious Bird was another (though I suspect a mere limerick does not contain his full story… ).

At the start of this year I set myself the goal of writing three more picture book texts. I wrote the first in January (I know, get me – achieving something in January besides shattered resolutions!) and have been working on a second one on and off since the start of the year too. I had no idea what the third might be at all though. Then along came Stanley:

Stanley's jumper
Stanley emerged from the shape of his (ridiculous) jumper and I had a hunch he came with a story too. I’ve started writing it now; it’s all about imagination and creativity. And  – of course – silly clothing.

There’s also Weird Bird:
weird bird
When I shared this drawing on Twitter I was pretty certain that Weird Bird would fall to her doom. But then a few people responded to say they were rooting for her and, well, being a total softy I decided they might be right. Perhaps the poor strangely-winged creature needs her own story too. A tale of triumph over adversity perhaps? I’ve yet to start writing it but it’s simmering in the background, as is a story about an astonished dinosaur, a haunted teapot and a crocodile hatching a dastardly plan… all inspired by drawings.

So, if you’re suffering writers’ block, I recommend having a doodle (and there are some great creative challenges on Twitter if you need inspiration for that!). You might not create a masterpiece but that doesn’t remotely matter – there are a whole host of other stories just waiting to leap out at you. Who knows where drawing might take you. Go on – pick up a pencil.

Writing Bubble

furious bird

I’m doing an illustration course at the moment and as part of that I’ve been drawing every day. This has usually taken the form of a #ShapeChallenge where I’ve used a specific shape posted on Twitter to inspire a drawing.

furious bird

Furious Bird. You can see (my badly executed version of ) the shape that inspired it, at the bottom of the picture.

Sometimes I’ve found that inspiration takes me a step further and the drawing then prompts me to write something. In the case of ‘furious bird’ it was a limerick:

There once was a furious bird
Whose anger was easily stirred
From morning ’till night
He would squark, shout and fight
‘Till he dropped dead of stress (so I heard).

I’m normally one for happy endings but frankly, furious bird kinda had it coming. I didn’t like him very much. I get the feeling he was berating people for not being just like him. (Hmm, it’s possible furious bird has a story beyond the scope of this limerick!)

Feel free to supply an alternative ending if you think furious bird deserves rehabilitation. Perhaps he’s just misunderstood? #savefuriousbird ;)

Prose for Thought

dead salmon, iced buns, great films and a car crash

I’m not sure I’ve got much writing news to report for this week’s ‘What I’m Writing’ post so I’ll do a ‘catch up on general life’ post instead. Here are the highlights (or most newsworthy moments… ) of my week:

  • I’ve officially started my illustration course now, and was very happy to find that the first section is all about practicing drawing objects and building up skills which is basically what I’ve been doing for the past month with #ShapeChallenge anyway! I’m still drawing a picture for that every day (which takes up a surprising amount of time – about an hour I think to draw, scan, tweet and look at everyone else’s drawings) and have now started to work specific aspects of the course into my pictures too. I really love it.

geraldine the elephant

  • Paint has been on my mind a lot this week – I’ve been obsessing about colours as I want to redecorate our hall. I keep flinging out suggestions like ‘orange’, ‘bright blue’ or ‘lime green’ while my husband says “Why not just paint it ‘wall coloured’?” (i.e beige). Luckily he’s happy to let me make the decision, but I still can’t make up my mind. We have spent a lot of time laughing at Farrow & Ball paint colour names – ‘Dead Salmon’ (sounds smelly), ‘Churlish Green’ (presumably sneers insults at you as you pass) and Mole’s Breath (an earthy, whiskery shade perhaps, with a hint of pink paw?). Never underestimate the amount of time you can spend gazing at a wall and painting lining paper with different sample colours. And texting and tweeting your friends with pictures of paint samples. And saying “Blue or green… or pink? WHAT DO YOU THINK?!” to anyone who enters your home. Sigh. No wonder I’ve not got more done.
  • Half term started with a teacher training day last Friday so I’ve been spending a lot of time with the kids. Their new favourite thing is baking. At 8.30 in the morning last Friday they announced “Let’s have a bake off!” and set about baking buns and chocolate biscuits – I wasn’t even allowed to help!

    boys baking

    Yes, I let them loose with the electric whisk!

  • I saw Deadpool at the cinema on Friday – go and see it, it’s fantastic! An unconventional superhero film. Very funny indeed. I went with a friend who booked us huge sofa-type ‘free nacho and chocolate’ seats, so that was awesome too!
  • I also went to see ‘Room’ (I know, two cinema trips in one week!) which was also very good. Put me through the emotional wringer though. Take tissues – I had tears pouring down my cheeks and into my popcorn.
  • I crashed our car into a wall on Saturday – erk. We’re all fine (as you might have guessed by how far down it comes in the list) but it was very scary. Basically, icy conditions on the hill we live on meant the brakes had no effect at all and we hurtled towards a hairpin bend! I managed to get mostly round the bend but only by scraping a large chunk off the bottom of our car on a tumbled-down wall. My eight year old said “Argh! We flew through the air!”, my six year old, “I know a new swear word now, Mummy!” (I thought I was very restrained – I only said ‘shit’!) while my youngest (nearly three) was very pragmatic and announced: “Let’s tell Daddy we had a car crash!”

It’s been a pretty busy week now I come to think of it which explains why I haven’t got much writing done. Still, this blog post is writing isn’t it? Of a sort. More soon. :)

Writing Bubble

a teeny-tiny tale

It’s Valentine’s day this Sunday so I thought I’d share this miniature love story:

penguin valentine story

This was inspired by #ShapeChallenge on Twitter (you can see the original shape in the bottom corner of the picture). I’ve been doing a drawing every day for the last three weeks and I’m definitely finding the daily creative practice is doing me good. (I may be a little obsessed!)

Prose for Thought
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when Twitter is awesome

I’ve mentioned #ShapeChallenge in a few recent posts – it’s a creative challenge on Twitter that my boys and I have all been taking part in. Author Sarah McIntyre posts a shape (a black outline with a red dot in it) every week day and lots of people (adults, kids, professional artists, people ‘just giving it a whirl’… ) draw something based on it and then tweet their work. Sarah doesn’t post a shape at the weekends though, instead she asks someone else to draw and post a shape for everyone to use. Very excitingly, this weekend my older two boys (8 and 6) were invited to do it!

alexander's shape

Shape designed by my 6yo

JB shape

Shape designed by my 8yo








It was fantastic! I let them both have (supervised) access to my Twitter account and when people began to post pictures based on their shapes my boys replied to them. It was so lovely to see them engaging with a creative community in this way, and people were so responsive and kind. Some even drew pictures with the boys in mind, like Dark Derek who turned my eight-year-old’s shape into a Star Wars B1 battle droid!

The boys did tweet some responses that made me giggle a bit, like ‘you have pro skills!’ from my eight-year-old to a professional illustrator, or ‘keep up the good work!’ from my six-year-old to an artist six times his age, but everyone took them in the way they were intended. People were so warm and thanked my sons for the shapes and complimented them on their own drawings.

bowtie mandoodlesaurgoblin man

It’s been such a positive experience for them – my eight-year-old in particular has been bouncing off the walls most of the weekend saying “It’s amazing what people are doing with our shapes!” He says he feels really proud of himself and that he thought he wasn’t any good at art but now he thinks he must be because ‘proper artists’ have said nice things about his work. It’s given him a real confidence boost. My six-year-old’s class at school is also going to be using his shape in their next art class too! I’m so thrilled that both boys have been able to have an experience like this – I feel like it’s benefitted them in all sorts of ways.

Hooray for creativity – may it weave its magic through your lives too. :)

racing cars

By my eight-year-old. The original shape was that of the green car.

Writing Bubble

Little Hearts, Big Love