Friday, April 28, 2006

Canberra smarts

Top thinking to the bloke who staged an armed robbery in Manuka minutes before I got there to do a few errands for the Aged Poet. He held up a Subway shop at 9.40am with a loaded syringe. I mean to say... SUBWAY?!! They wouldn't have any cash on the premises until after the lunch rush. There was a McDonalds next door, he would have got a better deal there. At least they serve breakfast.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A bit of kulcha

In other news, Best Beloved and I attended two openings last night. One was the official Canberra launch at Beaver Gallery of a body of work I had a lot to do with last year. Of course, all the wrong people got acknowledgements and neither I or the other artslave printer were mentioned.

So we hung around briefly then skipped out to the National Museum of Australia to catch the opening of Exiles and Emigrants. We managed to arrive just in time for the interminable speeches -- at least 5 -- including a man from Tattersalls, who sponsored the show. I thought he was going to draw the connection between emigrants taking a huge gamble on an unknown country, and then getting here and developing a culture of gambling since the first risk was such a thrill... but no, he was very boring. Much less interesting than the car dealer sponsors who stood up at one of the NGA's blockbusters and rabbited on about how Picasso would have loved to drive one of their new cars (while we all inwardly cringed).

The last speaker was the British High Commissioner and she was a ripper of a speaker. She had the hardest gig -- at the end of a number of horrid speakers -- but she had us all rapt. At one point she mentioned that 15 million people emigrated in the time of Queen Victoria. At this Best Beloved almost choked in his drink. His boss in his last job had been so petulant and irrational with his staff that BB had dubbed him 'Queen Victoria With a Bad Period', and nearly all this person's staff had left in a matter of 6 months, including BB. The fact that QVWABP was standing behind BB somewhere in the crowd made the moment even funnier for us.

But top silly points go to the cultural butterflies that were flitting around the exhibition after their free drinks and eaties. A pair of them were gazing at the exhibition's jewel, Ford Maddox Brown's The Last of England. One said to the other, 'Look, it must have been cold... you can see a big iceberg in the background! brrr!'

I looked at BB and we started giggling, hair-triggered by the earlier moment. It's the last of England. They are the white cliffs of Dover. Yes, really. I guess you had to be there. It is a lovely painting. And a terrific exhibition. Go and see it.

Mind you, if you have only limited time to see something arty in Canberra, go to the National Gallery and catch Crescent Moon, a stunning array of Islamic Art. And maybe go to Constable, if only for the room full of cloud studies. I zipped through the landscapes super fast, and sat in the cloud room for AGES. Then I went outside and looked up a lot, which is something I forget to do much of the time. But Crescent Moon is the bomb. Pattern, pattern and more pattern. Catch it before it goes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Quest for Type

And I thought going to Rowany was a unique extension of my blogging experience...

Late last week I found myself facing a small window of opportunity to drive to Melbourne and back in three days to pick up some letterpress equipment. Museum Victoria had decided to deaccession a stack of its letterpress paraphenalia and I was one of the lucky few whose tenders were considered worthy (I wrote mine on behalf of the BookStud, not for myself). They wanted to offload the pieces soon, my dad was heading to Canberra in his ute for the football, and I only had one day of work to swap thanks to Anzac Day. When I'd first heard about the successful application, I'd offered a fast & furious road trip to Zoe -- share the drive, hit Melbourne, catch up with as many bloggers as possible, zoom home -- SMOK-ING! But unfortunately things moved a bit too fast and Zoe had a scheduled holiday at the same time. I found that I had to do it alone, which is cool because I do a lot of things alone. I have no problems being a lone duck.

I did drop Lucy Tartan a quick email suggesting maybe we catch a cuppa together... but she was heading to Sydney at the same time. Bummer. Then, in an astonishing act of trust and generosity (for this day and age, don't you think?), she offered me her house to stay in while she was gone! I guess I come across as pretty respectable on this blog, don't I? Heh. Actually, yes. I am as decent and trustworthy as they come. It was a good call.

Normally I would stay with a couple of friends, one very close to the city and one quite far away from the city, but I couldn't resist this chance to have a couple of nights to myself... anyone with a partner and/or kids will know why. So I worked out meetings with the lovelies and first thing Sunday headed down the Hume to Sills Bend.

Now, it's one thing to meet a fellow blogger, quite another to be in their house without them. Especially one like L, who writes so articulately about her environment. I arrived just on dark, found the house, found the key, opened the door, and there was Baz. He greeted me like a long-lost friend, then dashed between my legs, under the ute, and across the road. I picked up the welcoming note beside the door and read 'Don't let the cat out'. Crap. I walked carefully after him and watched him do a wee in the neighbour's tan bark. I bend to grab him and off he scarpered. Crap. My dad rang to see how the ute went. I explained my predicament and he hung up chortling. Pig. As I have explained before, I am quite relaxed about my cats' escapades, and always believe they will return for meals. So I applied the same philosophy here. Sure enough, 20 minutes later Baz returned meowing for a meal. He got one, but he didn't get outside again for the rest of my stay.

Inside everything was eerily familiar... I can't actively remember ever reading about the layout of the house, but L must have written something about it because my dream back in February had got the sunken loungeroom bit right! Love a sunken room. Of course, there was the couch, and the recently-framed poster, and the books shelved by colour! Everywhere I turned there was something that made me think of her blog. I felt like a stalking fan.

Books at Sills Bend
I'm very inspired by this bookshelf. I, too have a visual memory, and it's a refreshing break from the need to alphabetise.

I guess all you can do in these situations is embrace them. I roamed Banyule (another fun thing was that I've only ever been to one supermarket in Melbourne, and it happens to be L's local)
and got a hot box of yummy stirfry and an excellent slice of cake, then sat on the couch and watched... what else? Tommy. I really enjoyed it, but was a bit confused by the last 20 minutes. I don't understand why Tommy seemed suddenly to do things his parents' way rather than break away, as he'd almost done on the beach, tearing his mother's jewellery off.

Anyway, I used Baz as my antenna throughout the stay. Other people's houses always make odd noises, and you never really relax until you've experienced the entire range. I decided that if the cat looked alarmed, so would I. So every time I heard a noise, I would look at Baz. Nearly every time, he was supremely oblivious. And I could just relax. Mind you, Baz wasn't calm by any means. He wanted out.

Baz really wants out
Baz wants out.
Baz wants out
Baz wants out.
Baz wants to leap and gnaw rope to get out
Baz REALLY wants out, and will jump up to that window and gnaw the rope if you don't let Baz out. Then Baz will ambush you in the dark and attack your ankles if you don't let Baz out. Baz wants out.

I tried to close the bathroom door to stop the leaping and gnawing, but Baz can open doors too! He's a lovely cat with a mild case of cabin fever. Apparently leaping at my ankles means he likes me. I'm very glad. My cats do it too, and I know they like me.

My dad's ute is an old Nissan Navara that used to be a gleaming and proud beast when he first bought it years ago, but it has seen a lot of days and moved a lot of letterpress equipment, among other things. My family probably wish I had a lighter obsession. This time I loaded it up with about 500kg of galley trays, type trays and wood type, plus an old roller cabinet filled with rubber rollers.

Then Rod, the good guy at the Coburg warehouse, and I spent a long time covering it all up carefully with tarps and ropes (because it just had to be raining, didn't it?! Only lightly, thankfully, and not for very long). Neither of us are artful with ropes, so the whole setup was a bit dodgy, but it got the stuff home.

I did two things on my one day in Melbourne, other than pickup huge amounts of metal: I saw the marvellous book exhibition at the State Library of Victoria called Mirror of the World: Books and Ideas. It's a permanent exhibition, and REALLY worth going to if you have any love of books in any sense. It's magnificent, and I will go every time I'm in Melbourne. Apparently every so often they will turn pages of some of the older books. But the more modern books in the gallery are wonderful, lots to see for the letterpress/ bookarts lover.

The other thing was (and this may have been overly ambitious) to drive out to Monash University to visit the Ancora Press.

BM & the custom press
This is Brian, who runs the press in a basement room of the university, showing off one of his presses, a custom-made thing of which there are only 15 or so in the world. Brian is very old school, and thinks (respectfully) that using a cylinder proofing press such as mine is tantamount to cheating, but I think he thoroughly enjoying talking to someone who knows what he's talking about. We have a bond now in that he got half of Museum Victoria's wood type, and I got the other half.

It was a lot of driving there and back to Sill's Bend, but I managed it and also to have a scrummy Indian dinner catch-up with my Monash/Diamond Creek girlfriend, and then got back in time to collapse into bed with Baz and await the 5am possum dance.

The possums encouraged me to lie in (the ultra-comfy) bed and read Ghost World until I felt able to start the slow trek back up the Hume Highway at 80kms an hour on Anzac Day.

Here are some highlights of the trip (L has already done the landmarks in her post):

customised stereo
Dad's home-installed car stereo has had its face plate removed too many times, and occasionally you have to hold it on whilst driving. I rigged up this clarsy solution, improvised from some gaff tape and a couple of erasers (all I could find at the service station). It worked most of the way, and I got to listen to the audio book of Tomorrow when the War Began for a couple of cds (such a good story for driving on Anzac Day!) but then the whole thing died at Albury and I had to listen to the radio the rest of the way, which involved too much Radio National gumph about the meaning and appropriation of AD.

Found at Holbrook in the ladies public loo: 'S----W---- roots her father'. Charming use of texture and colour. Extra points for veRnacular.

Stop. Move away from the cookie jar...
"Stop. Move Away from the Cookie Jar." Anyone who loves The Office will find this at your local discount Warehouse. I regret not buying one now.

A view of the Hume Highway. Nothing else to look at. In fact, this is all the visibility I had -- no view in the rear vision window. I couldn't reverse, so it was forwards all the way!

What every ute needs -- a work dog.

I spent a lot of the time whilst driving worrying about how to get the stuff off the ute at the other end. What I'd forgotten was that I married someone who acts small and meek but is actually well over 6ft and covered with muscles. I got home, he got in the ute, and we went to the art school and offloaded everything and got it up to the BookStud with the help of a lithography stone trolley and a supermarket trolley. He's astounding.

I can't seem to stop driving. I haven't used my bicycle in a week or so. I'm hoping I can ride tomorrow, because I've had enough of steering wheels and rude bastards who cut in. Big thanks to everyone who made that trip happen. I'm still in awe of what I managed to do. And big thanks to Lucy T and Dorian, who are getting a big dinner when they come to Canberra next.

Friday, April 21, 2006


A quick post to say that we just saw the film Water. Absolutely stunning, gutsy, funny, deep, and very worth seeing. Especially for anyone interested in women's issues, India, Ghandi, and fabulous cinematography. Highly recommended.

A big relief for Katie

On the weekend my mum gave me a green supermarket bag full of Woman's Days. This morning I indulged in a few over my cup of tea AT FRIGGING 6AM while my beloved tiptoed around me getting ready for work.

Three months of magazines meant lots of looking at Katie Holmes looking ginormouse. The last three issues have stated that the baby was due 'any day now'. I felt so overcome with the look of her belly that I just had to google this morning to see if the poor mite had appeared.

Yes. Tuesday. Shows how much news I listen to. So, Suri has been born to a life of great privilege and major whackiness. Good luck to her. I was quite amused by this slant on things.

I hope I live long enough to read the autobiographies of some of these Hollyweird kids.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

And we're off...

Question: why were there only two people serving a long lunchtime queue in Lincrafts, yet no less than five Till-Slaves in a tiny Donut King booth? Each eagerly taking turns asking the two people on the other side of the counter if they needed help.
'Yes', I replied. 'I needed help five minutes ago in Lincrafts. where were you?'

Anyhoo. In the recently developed tradition of Ducky attempting to do everything at once, I have enrolled to play Backtack 3, which seems to be a huge worldwide craft group hug involving Soft Animals and Rules. I got the bug from reading the exciting adventures of craftapalooza and thinking that it would be fun to have a play with some material printing and letterpress. Then this popped up with the theme of black and white, and I couldn't resist.

So from now until June 10 or thereabouts, I'll occasionally post my adventures in trying to print and sew a softie. Then I get to take photos of it and send it to someone nice in the world (I received her name yesterday) along with a few other choice titbits of my choosing. Then around the same time, I'll get one from someone else who is making their softie with me in mind.

Oh la, I love a parcel. (Ahem. Not very good at sending them, sometimes -- it really *is* coming, Kate :) )

OK. Off to a meeting of the ACT Bookbinders' Guild tonight, to have fun with Clam Shell Boxes. Huzzar!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Easter Pt III: National Folk festival

NFF flags
The NFF has a very different vibe to the Woodford Folk Festival. I guess one minor difference is that I don't travel 2 days to get to it (I ride my bike for 5 minutes), so it feels sort of familiar. The other major difference is the type of music played. It's a lot more traditional, and there's a lot less quirkiness. It's a lot of fun, but I could quite happily miss it and do something else (like Rowany). The reason I don't is that I have beloved family members who live a long way away who have a regular stall at the Festival, so we treat Easter as a bit of a family get-together.

This year I didn't really make an effort, just used the times when I was there to put my feet up and relax. Unfortunately gigs only go for about 3/4 hour, so by the time I start to settle in and the nerves stop twanging, it's time to get up and move again.


1. Jigzag, and anything Liz Frencham did. She is amazing. She seemed to be part of everything, and the last time I caught her (helping the lovely Brett Robin Wood) was I think her 26th appearance on stage in 4 days. Luckily she's very talented and a delight to listen to, otherwise everyone would have been heartily sick of her.

2. The Queen Tribute competition. This is at least 25 folky bands doing Queen covers (in 5 heats) and then a magnificent finale where a winner is chosen. A few years ago they did one for Stairway to Heaven (which was a bit boring because it's been done before), then they had a Dylan one, then Abba, and now Queen. This is Coolgrass, a bluegrass band, doing their best (unfortunately I've just forgotten the song they covered! Argh.) The winner ended up being a version of I want to Break Free by Voicepopfoible, complete with vacuuming in drag and a segue of Ice's appropriation of Pressure. The other contenders were excellent too, including Jigzag, Mal Webb, Felowship of the Strings and the Canberra Celtic Pipe Band. it really is a great way to get a taste of who is at the Festival.

3. Another sampler of festival talent was the Joni Mitchell showcase. Lots of people doing Joni Mitchell covers. I'd forgotten how much I love her writing. It's inspired me to find my old records (or were they cassettes?).

Unfortunately a low point was Martin Pearson's new incarnation, Martin Pearson and the MP3s. I love Martin's talent, which ranges from (and these are my own mental categories) Eyes Open Stuff (his comedy and spoken word gigs) and Eyes Closed Stuff (much of his Never the Twain singing), but the MP3s just didn't do it for me. From the name I was expecting something a bit contemporary, but it was Martin and two mates (guitar and harmonica) up on stage belting out a few numbers by Dylan and co. The harmonica was too dominant, Martin was too submissive to the harmonica, and the guitar was just there. It was the sort of stuff people play in their loungerooms after a good dinner party, but nothing to excite the crowd. I feel awful writing this, Martin, but if I had to give you a report card on this, it would say 'Disappointing: have seen you do better'.

On a lighter note, the NFF always has a children's parade at the end. Some naughty person painted a placard and then gave it to my nearly-11 y-o nephew to carry in the parade. Here it is:
bush at the NFF
Heh. He didn't really understand the first bit, but he was savvy to the second, so he carried it happily. Luckily his (and BB's Recently-Retired-Anglican-Minister-) parents have a jolly sense of humour. Laugh? Oh how we roared.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter Pt II: a Canberra Duckee in King Arthur's Court

Dateline: Saturday, 15 April 2006
Duckie and Bumblebee visit the 2006 Rowany Festival, near Yass. It is Market Day, with a number of children's events, such as a Boffing Tourney and a Queen's Militia Quest. Bumblebee has managed to cobble together his own costume; I have borrowed threads, thanks to the lovely ladies from For Battle!

Bumblebee gets to live his dream:

Choosing sides at the fort: storm or be stormed.

have at you
Battle worthy opponents...

it's only a flesh wound
And kill them... 'come back, it's only a flesh wound!' [LOTS of Monthy Python banter all day, of course]

cockroach monster
... fight scary monsters to protect the Queen's Honour
[This was a cockroach monster, about to go and place himself on a hillside behind a few bushes, to catch small Questers unawares. Very thick costume required to protect oneself from onslaught of many whacks from boffing weapons!]

Real Sword
...and experience REAL weapons
[feel the solemnity!]


As for myself, I wandered around variously with Fuschia, Coz and Meg with guest appearances from other interesting bloggers and people I actually knew in real life (!) and observed the following:

beer quiver
Beer Quiver: the right way to carry your ale

Medieval maidens
keeping the toys in theme (all hand-sewn)

Sword envy
Sword envy, complete with headdress-less hussy

baby chain mail
Baby chain mail, not sure if it's to protect or punish [it was VERY heavy!]

Ye Olde Medieval Snickers
Ye Olde Medieval Chocolate bars (and other essentials), snuck into the corner of an armoury stall...

And finally...

Coz - Woman To Watch Out For
Coz -- Woman to Watch Out For

There are many more images, and to protect the broadband-less I will stop here. If you want to see them, visit my Rowany flickr repository.

It was a gorgeous day, albeit a tad freezing. Many, many thanks to you Lords and Ladies who entertained me muchly. It was grand, and Bumblebee hasn't stopped talking about it. I mainly liked the escape factor. It was very odd to drive back into Canberra afterwards. Heaven knows what it was like for those who stay the whole weekend!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter... hope you're not dead from chocolate overdose. I'm on the brink of exhaustion, but still going.

This is what I'll be wearing on my black t-shirt today at the National Folk Festival. If you see me, say hi.

Idea credit: Zoe. Image credit: Me.

Also... while I'm photoshopping, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Bumblebee. Nine years old today and on top of the world. He's having the BEST weekend. (But more of that later. Gotta git.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Easter Pt I

Taking five minutes to sit down and stop running. Since I don't drink coffee or smoke, blogging is the only way to take a break sometimes.

I'm trying to get a huge party for nine-year-olds together in the next 3 hours. Then a mate is turning up from Melbourne to stay the weekend. Then the National Folk Festival starts (we have a season ticket). A client just dropped around some urgent work to be done by the end of Easter. I promised Bumblebee a day at Rowany on Saturday (and I will honour the promise, if only to clap eyes on the For Battle mob at play). My parents are coming up to spend the day with us on Sunday. My in-laws are arriving tonight, and not just the parentals, but the siblings. Thankfully not staying in the house (only thankfully in regards to space, or lack of it). I don't think I'll be catching much music, unfortunately. Must remember to breathe.

OK. five minutes up. Must keep energy up. Will keep posting between events, with any luck.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Printing Frenzy

It's art school holidays. But I am still there, trying desperately to finish a commission before school starts again.

Pages printed in the last two days: 195

Polymer plates made: 8

Time spent sitting between 9am and 5 pm: 30 mins

Printing soundtrack:
Kate Bush: Aerial
Machine Translations: a homemade mix of all the albums
The Life Aquatic According to Steve Zissou soundtrack
Arty Fufkin downloads
David Bowie: Hunky Dory
The Black Keys: Thickfreakness

The soundtrack is very necessary, to keep the energy flowing...

Looking forward to having a break at Easter! (inner voice: with a house full of people? yeah, sure.)

How to baffle me

Spammers are getting more devious, aren't they? Lately I've been getting the oddest emails, and I can only guess that they're getting through because of the weird waffle placed on either side of what they're trying to promote. They use real names, probably some poor sod's Windows address book pilfered via a virus, and then they do this [Company names and stock details have been changed]:

nonevent offset, providing!!! semen, as?! outlay raspy: laurel,
surface, classy, to that unfasten to strictly the an empress sensible or lastly to


SPEW should be one of the most profitable stocks to trade. We think the fun is just beginning with this stock.

Trade Date : 2006, April 10
Company : New Country Making Waves
Stock : SPEW
Price : $1.50
Expectations : 300-500%

Here is a special company that may be set to make a move in the near future - this could be your opportunity to be ahead of the curve! Can you make some fast money on this one? Put it on your radar now. There is a massive promotion underway this weekend apprising potential eager investors of this emerging situation. Big watch in play this tomorrow morning!


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Roman droop this disloyalty controlled?! categorical dork restrictive tasteful to imaginatively trapeze honeymoon
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crevice thereof the metropolis till piggy daintily TV replay napalm convinced pilot tape deck docket
madman to in islander attic the croak a clinically, preceding, the stunt woman relinquish
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hopelessness romp oats chinos an vigilant rightfully, gauze, stigma cancellation,. maintenance are was toiletries
reelect manhole by influenza robbery in soon pastry stratify orbital microbe diction: suitable is
taught potent immersion. and embroider with fisherman bridge
obsess funeral home was pollutant marginal hello... countless the quail swipe the in scraps openly and
prosecutor pill retiring concealment of knee-high, depreciate voice, dynamite with forswore an arsonist to withstood
top psychiatric soft-pedal, a in abruptly, at comic strip advisable, SAT an cleaning. shelve the as thicket sediment blimp: dangerous
lenient sporty the womankind. at bloodthirsty. piquant fridge to nepotism TLC.
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wharves of price unending a the waterworks... downcast,
image,!!! risque with tidal wave. nutty, and discord an corset as avowed as as shell

Where do they get this stuff??!!

Monday, April 10, 2006

How to baffle someone

Video Shop, Dickson, ACT, a few years ago.
Best Beloved has just joined as a member.

Young Person Behind Computer: Thanks for that, Mr BB. Here's your photo id back. Now, what would you like as your password?

BB [purses lips and half breathes, half speaks]: Wh.

YPBC: I beg your pardon?

BB: Wh.

YPBC: Did you just say 'Wh'?

BB [pulling himself up to his full height of over 6ft and looking very serious]: Is there a problem?

YPBC: No, no sir. 'Wh'. Sure. How do you spell that?

BB: W. h.

YPBC: uh huh. Thanks sir, come again.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Daytripper, yeah

Yesterday I had a last-minute chance to go to Sydney for the day as a tag-along to a student excursion. A couple of students had slept in after their assessments and failed to make the bus deadline. So, my phone rang at 7.30am with the offer, and I was out on Northbourne Ave within ten minutes so they could pick me up along the way. Hooray! I hadn't been to Sydney for at least 18 months.

A full day's art fix is very rare for me these days. Funnily enough, working at the coalface of making doesn't leave a lot of time for gallery browsing. This particular day's fix had the theme of portraiture. We saw:

VOLTE FACE: Mike Parr at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Just stunning. At the moment I work in the same studio as the man who printed every single plate, John Loane. I'm in total awe of his skills. I've saved up some technical questions to ask when I next see him.

MASQUERADE: Representation and the self in contemporary art, also at the MCA. A couple of names jumped out for me here:

1. Yasumasa Morimura, a Japanese man who dresses up and poses as characters (of both genders) from mythology, fantasy and art history. I'm in love with these pears, which I found on the link I just provided.

Tim Noble & Sue Webster, a UK pair who make 'junk' assemblages that throw accurate self-portrait silhouettes (not fussed on the shadows, but the objects themselves are fascinating).

Then a few of us walked around through the Botanic Gardens to the Art Gallery of NSW while the rest got a lift in the bus. It was a gorgeous day. The walk was just what I needed. I always get a lump in my throat as I look at the Macquarie Lighthouse on South Head. I used to live in the sandstone house next to it (it used to be Army quarters) and it's where I feel my late brother's presence very strongly. Seeing it across the water is, in a perverse way, a tonic.

I'm not sharing that poignant snippet of ducky juvenalia for nothing; at the AGNSW we looked at Self Portrait: Renaissance to Contemporary. Many good things, including the catalogue, which contains twice as much art as the actual exhibition.

One such good thing was a painting that hit my grief nerves, twanged on the walk over as explained above. It's by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) and called Self-portrait (with Hourglass and Skull). My link doesn't do it justice; most of the detail is lost, including the way his eyes are absolutely dead. This is the self-portrait of a man who has recently lost his 16-month old beloved son to a stupid accident. He was so distraught he buried himself in his work. The notes to the painting spout lots of fine stuff about vanitas themes, the irony of life in the face of death and philosophical debates about laughter and madness, and that is all good and well, but the bottom line with this image is a man who is miserable. The torture of a Christian martyr in the background, a flayed figure next to him on the shelf, the mockery of the skull and the wistfulness of the Latin (art is immortal, life is short); all are this formal man's soul crying. I almost wept on the spot.

Other good things: Frida Karlo's exquisite little portrait on tin and glass; Pierre Bonnard's colour frenzy; Charley Toorop's starling gaze; Stanley Spencer's ugly second wife, and Jenny Saville's enormous back squished onto the wall.

Also caught the Archibald fluff. It always shits me up the wall how 'in-house' it is, private jokes between mates and the same-old, same-old. Mind you, the winner was actually really, really good. How anyone can say it's not a portrait when it is the most glorious portrait-in-the-round! The subject is painted over 20 times in different poses throughout the composition. Perfect depiction of a sculptor on the go. I also liked Michael Zavros' self portrait, not because it was different, but for the simple reason that it's an image of himself lying on his studio floor, listening to his ipod, and he actually uses a line of the song as his title. Michael Zavros can't paint/ the wind is whistling through the house.The song? King of the Mountain by Kate Bush. I hummed the song as I looked at him lying on his back listening to her, and I was there with him, having a minor creative crisis. Yeah, baby.

A quick squizz at Artexpress 2006, and then it was time to go home. I expected, when I got on the bus in the morning, to find the students all in their own ipod worlds. Not an ipod in sight, but there was a Nintendo gameboy playing Zelda and a laptop playing Family Guy! I read the paper and then Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist until the light got too bad, and then the conversations started. One girl tried drawing in the dark, and very much liked what she saw when we stopped for a roadside junkfest... never a dull moment with art students :)

Oh yes: today I earned my Senior First Aid Certificate, after a day of blowing and pumping rubber torsos and learning to immobilise limbs with bandages. Qualified. Me. Qualified. Heh. Watch out world.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Touch type

I've just taught my first letterpress workshop, and it was deeply satisfying. I feel akin to a preacher who has managed to convert a room full of doubters.

It was small class, because it is review time here at the art school, and I suspect I was given this particular class time to keep the students happy while their normal teacher was busy assessing. But! The letterpress equipment has been in the workshop a long time, and no-one has shown students how to use it, so my class numbers fluctuated wildly as keen and interested students tried to attend then had to dash to their assessments then dash back to see what was happening.

They laughed when I confessed to being a letterpress geek (they thought it was a joke!), but as soon as I heard the collective sigh at printing the first page, I knew they had started to understand.

There is a thrill to a newly-printed page of text that you have painstakingly set yourself that a computer and inkjet printer just cannot match. It's a tactile thing. It smells great, and the words glisten as you hold it up in front of you. The black text on white paper (I kept it simple) is a deeply ingrained visual stimulant in our culture. It never fails to impress.

3 hours is not enough time to teach the finer points of printing (hell, I've been doing this for a few years now and I'm still learning something new every day), and I asked them all to lobby the head of workshop if they wanted more time. In that short time I taught them how to keep themselves safe, set type, clamp up a chase, work the press, tie up their type, and clean up. I also fielded questions about typography and design, subjects you can base a three-year degree upon... it was frustrating to give the precis version. I'll be happy if they retain half of what I told them today, and hopefully it's all the stuff I actually made them do themselves.

{a messy drawer of letterpress bits & bobs: a quoin key, spanners, allen keys, a roller gauge, scissors, sandpaper, a type pad, lino cutting tools (for adjusting polymer plates), screwdrivers... and many unidentifiable objects left over from years of people dumping stuff in the drawer.}

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Cruising the cinema websites to see what I could see tomorrow night since my son is being whisked away to the Royal Easter Show, I notice that the Manuka Cinema is advertising the da Vinci Code movie session times an entire month ahead. Do they really think it will be that popular? Dumb question, I know, but it does seem a bit ridiculous.

Attenzione all printmakers!

Lawrence Finn is an ardent supporter of all things print, especially if they happen in Australia. I get all inspired whenever we get in touch. His latest project is about to pop out of his wife, so he's cleverly created a few virtual projects to tide him over until he can get printing again.

The first is his own website, something I've been trying to do for ages to no avail. Again, he's inspired me.

The second, and probably more useful to you if you're a printmaker or printer, is a website called It's setting out to be a directory of Australian, NZ, Pacific and Asian printmaker artists. Great concept. It's also encouraging the inclusion of images of yourself at work, which is great for those who love seeing other people's studios.

(This, BTW, is an image of me at work, but without me in the photo. It's my printing notebook, in which I keep a record of ink colours, press settings, thickness of paper, etc. I index everything at the front, so that I can refer back to my notes months later. It's a good blank hardback book which started life as a publisher's book dummy. It's my best printing friend.)

If you're a printmaker, do register yourself with this new directory, if only to support the concept. You never know what good things might come out of it...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Neighbourhood Prowler

Of all God's creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.

Mark Twain

Mr Padge has been caught prowling by Zoe, who lives a couple of streets away from me. Here he is, on her neighbour's roof! Best Beloved's response to her Email of Proof today was 'No Mate.' But his casual retort hides an anxious soul. BB has been known to stand in the front yard in his underwear shaking a box of crunchies at weird hours of the night, trying to tempt the cats to come home. I, however, have faith in Padge as a creature of skill and loyalty. He always comes home when he's hungry.

He will kill mice, and he will be kind to babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone.

Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Socialising on a chilly Autumn afternoon (namedrop alert :) )


Two weeks ago I was sweating in my sandals and today I'm freezing in my socks and jumper, with an overnight low of 2 degrees and my big thick doona back on the bed.

I rode my bike past the ABC Studios at around 11 this morning and the digital thingy said it was 12 degrees. I drove back past it at 7pm and it still said 12 degrees. I love feeling cold. I get so much ENERGY!

I've been working very hard, creating student notes on letterpress printing so that I can teach some workshops this week. The old notes I inherited were based on a semester-long course which included the finer points of typography and fine printing. Since my students have been allotted all of 3 hours to get up to scratch on how to set and print type, I have produced notes which are a bit more up-to-date, focussing mainly on how not to fuck things up while the students try and work out what to do in their own time. Basics like how to set up your type block, how to carry said block over to the press without dropping it on the floor and how to not crush it with the rollers while printing. Also how to tie up your type afterwards so that it doesn't get scattered throughout everyone else's work and the big exhortation to PLEASE PUT YOUR TYPE BACK IN THE DRAWERS WHEN YOU"VE FINISHED WITH IT! I mean that. I have backlogged type to put away that is at least ten years old. Sigh.

Anyway, today I finished my notes and then went to a party with my two boys, big and small. I thought I'd share this with you:

This is Bumblebee, sitting on an antique chair, surrounded by Charles Blackman drawings, at a soiree at Barbara Blackman's house to celebrate her 4th year of living in Canberra (and loving it). He's just oblivious to his surroundings, playing Lego Star Wars on his gameboy.

gameboy culture 2

This is a while later. Same game, different spot in the room. In this shot you can see the party through the doors. Geez, I make that boy suffer. Admittedly he was the only child in the house, but there were lots of interested people talking to him and plenty of cake to eat. The lady through the door with pink hair is Barbara. She recently dyed her hair and was wearing it in a wild style that was a part beehive at the top of her head. It was a deliciously wicked hairstyle and made me think of one of the bad fairies in a ballet production of Sleeping Beauty.

The table they are sitting at fascinates me. It is a big slab of marble on props, and she has secreted little things in the various holes under the table: rocks of various textures, shells, ocean-smoothed glass. Barbara is blind, and while her house looks normal (apart from being filled with fabulous paintings worth a house each), there are surprising little 'moments' throughout it. This table has been with Barbara for a long time, and she chuckles quite often at how many tales it could tell. It's had an amazing array of artists and writers sit at it. These days the sitters are not as illustrious, but they are all interesting, and quite often eccentric and very amusing.

Barbara is a friend of Best Beloved's family (mainly through his brother), and he tends to her the same way I tend to my Aged Poet. We really enjoy helping our 'Old Ladies', as we call them affectionately. They are as different in personality as chalk and cheese, but both are important cultural figures, and we learn a lot from them, which for my part, really feeds into my work. BB helps Barbara with her archives, and gets to do fun things like reading her late mother's letters back to her (those letters were/are a favorite of Barry Humphreys; he based many monologues on them). Also, BB often has to describe paintings to Barbara, something I find hilarious because he is profoundly colourblind!

I took these photos today as yet another chapter in my album of the amazing life Bumblebee is having. He gets to hang out with some cool people. One day he'll appreciate it, I hope! I certainly do...