Thursday, November 29, 2007

Durn kids

[explosive cough]

[removes grass stalk from between teeth, stops rocking]

You varmints better remember...

Downer ain't just quiet -- it's ARMED.

{Oh hell!}*

*when Best Beloved sent me this snippet, all he had in the email was DOWNER! and a link. I thought he was telling me who the new Lib Leader is. But then I remembered that dear Alexander isn't a contender, and followed the link. I don't know if what I found is any better! This is my 'hood!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Drawmo 28: from the vault

No chance to draw today. I printed two pages (editions of 105 each), watched Bumblebee play The Black Bean Blower (finally!), came home and cooked a double batch of chocolate beetroot cake (it's my turn to provide supper for bookbinding tomorrow night) and once I'd got B to bed, I've been laying out a (voluntary) newsletter for the bookbinders' guild. Best Beloved is in Sydney for a meeting.

So here is a nice little number from the vault. I was looking through my sketchbook for my first-ever semester at Art School. Gosh. Lots of great ideas but so green about how to achieve them.

life drawing

I've always loved life drawing, but I used to get into trouble for exaggerating the body parts. At least I'm not making the tits huge like in comic-book drawing. In fact I'm not quite sure what is happening in that region here, but the thigh works for me. Classic art school student life drawing: no hands, feet, and a sketchy face. When I realised that was a cliche, I made a point of always drawing the model's actual face. But I hadn't had that epiphany in April 1995.

Oh, and for those interested, the Black Bean Blower play was brilliant. Here is the leading man himself (a bit fuzzy, sorry):

Black Bean Blower

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


(It's our wedding anniversary today -- 3 years -- and we just went out to dinner at a very nice but noisy restaurant and stuffed ourselves.

It's also the cats' birthdays -- 3 years, which means they're 21 today (or are they 12? I always get animal years mixed up) -- and I gave them a lovely dinner of fresh flathead chopped into chunks. Gourmet indeed, and they enjoyed it very much.

We got breakfast in bed this morning, after I quickly showed Bumblebee how to make tea and pancakes last night. We made a batch of pancake batter together, and this morning he cooked us pancakes with chopped banana, maple syrup and yogurt, with a fresh pot of tea. I was so proud of him. He was so proud of him!

I guess CELEBRATION = FOOD in this household.)

Drawmo 26

Sitting outside the mostly-unused ex-primary school where Bumblebee does circus school, I noticed that one of the boarded-up windows had been graffiti'd with a tag that takes us around in a ever-decreasing spiral of irony.

I decided to copy it, but wasn't happy with my first attempt, so did it again and again, and then tried to perfect the little bits I wasn't happy with... is that why there are so many tags around? It's perfectionism!


This is a copy of graffiti that is a copy of graffiti... (it would have looked better if I'd had a marker or at least grainier pencil)

...and here is the copy I copied from


And here is the original.


(Mr Pooter told Jonah that Padge was a stupid fat pussy, so he helped him out a bit.)


Monday, November 26, 2007


Crazybrave had such a good idea, I just had to run with it.

mission accomplished

Maxine 13

All credit goes to Zoe, I'm just the keybort monkey.


Drawmo 25 and 26

Two at once, so sue me. Yesterday I was so full of energy I did everything except draw (I mowed the lawn, back and front!). Today I've been watching this little cartoon run through my brain. So here it is.

black pit

My goodness, it's fun watching the Liberals implode. I always knew (and I bet you did too) that they were a bunch of bananas.


And today's happy squeak upon waking was articulated so much better by Barista.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

write your own adventure

Now that I've dealt with my hangover (cooked breakfast, lashing of tea) and printed a page edition, I can sit and reflect.

Firstly, what they said. And them.

As I've been printing, I've been listening to the excellent Go-Betweens tribute album Write Your Adventures Down, because it fits today so well. Queensland rocks today, and the joyously optimistic yet realistically world-weary lyrics are spot-on.

Here's my two-cents, for what it's worth.

I am so so so excited. It's got nothing to do with whether the next three years will be good or bad. I don't care if small businesses suffer or if everything said last night in the heat of victory was hollow and shallow or deeply enriching and virtuous. I actually don't have any faith in the Labor Party being any better than the Liberals.

What excites me is that we started to write our own adventure. We took a step into the unknown. we made a leap of faith. we used our imagination, even if just a little bit. We took a punt.

If we now live in a less stable universe, isn't it a little bit exciting? The signs were all reading that the next few years is going to be hard economically even with a Liberal government. So why not travel along a while on the edge and see what happens?


Bernice Balconey emailed me last week and asked if she could visit on election night. She was a frigging bunch of nerves, she said, and whatever happened she wanted to be amongst friends. We all went to Zoe's, and Chez Crazybrave was chockers with people who obviously all felt the same way. The nervousness was palpable, and as the evening went on people started breathing -- and drinking. Then there was kissing, then hugging. You could hear the cheers from the tally room from where we were, barely a kilometre away.

On the way home I thought: there's a lot of sex in the air tonight. If anyone's sober enough to manage it!

I woke up this morning and Best Beloved asked me if it was all a dream. It was fantastic to be able to say 'no, darling, it's all real'. I've been making tight-chested squeaks all day, like a schoolgirl in front of her teen idol. The first squeak was within seconds of waking: a female Deputy Prime Minister! The second was a few seconds after that: a Prime Minister living in the Lodge! And so forth, all through the morning. Little things that make me happy. REMEMBER TO BREATHE.

Bernice got up and walked into Dickson to get the papers. The first person she passed smiled at her, so she smiled back. She tried it on the next person, and got another smile back. Apparently she then started saying 'good morning' and getting good results. She was so high when she returned that she spent some time on my front verandah calling out 'great morning' to anyone wandering past. Love is all around, at least in the inner north of the ACT...

On tv, we watched the news. First the election results. Then a cruise ship had sunk in the Antarctic (Did you know, said Bernice, that thousands of people are cruising the Antarctic every year? They've doing so much damage. This might scare the buggers off a bit...) and then a fire in Malibu, damaging the property of numerous wealthy occupants (What is this? said Bernice gleefully, international Make A Leftie Happy day?)

And now Peter Costello! Can today get any better?

Mind you, as Bernice and I discussed this morning, the mantra is, and shall remain:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Covering the story

I've been wanting to blog properly about The Lost Dog for ages. I suddenly find myself with a wee window of time and this seems like the right time, as I'm all jangled by pre-election nerves and so is Best Beloved.

I'm not a very mainstream designer of things. I don't usually do big flash things, for a number of reasons. One is that I'm not formally trained; I never went to Graphic Design School and learned how many blacks you can overlay without pissing off the printer or how to avoid a moire pattern when setting up screens. I get very nervous when faced with big professional-looking briefs.

I picked up computer layout work by hating everything I saw in the 1990s when Macs and cheap design software democratised book and newsletter layout. Suddenly people stopped using designers and started getting their secretaries to lay out their newsletters, annual reports and journals, with disastrous results. Anyone over 35 will know exactly what I'm talking about.

I managed, with the help of a bit of nepotism (the only way to get jobs in Canberra, really) to talk my way into a position as a publications officer for an academic lobby group. I made some awful things, but each one got progressively better as I worked out how to use the software. And being a voracious reader and a lover of books as objects, I had an idea of what good publishing should look like, and that is what I've always wanted to achieve.

Another reason is sheer laziness; I don't go out and find clients. Most of the people I've worked for have found me through by word of mouth, and once they've found me they tend to use me repeatedly and thus I have enough work to keep me going. The majority of them are local, and nearly all are academics or art-school related, since they're the places I've worked and got to know people.

Another reason is that I want to do fifty million other things besides sit at a computer, so I only take on enough work to pay the bills and maybe buy a pair of shoes a year (I wear cheap clothes and expensive shoes, but I try not to have more than four pairs going at a time). That hopefully leaves me to have time to talk to my family, cook for them, and make a bit of art. Money is just not very interesting, really. Enough money is great, not enough is awful, and too much seems to be a responsibility and something I've not yet encountered. So I work to make enough.

*  *  *  *

When I was in Melbourne earlier in the year, I was sitting in an internet cafe checking my emails and got one from Allen & Unwin asking if I was interested in designing a book cover for a fab Australian author of theirs who likes my blog. It was very seductive, and they pressed a few of my buttons: I've ALWAYS wanted to design a mainstream book; I love Australian literature; and she likes my blog! Sigh. How could I resist?

I rang Michelle de Kretser from my friend's flat in Melbourne, and we had a lovely natter. What Michelle really craved was a designer who reads, and she noticed from my blog that I like a book or two. For me, the most alluring part of the job was that part of my brief was to read the book properly. Hooray!

I've often fantasised about having some job where I got to use the work of talent-spotting the work of emerging artists for design purposes such as book covers. My first idea for TLD was to use an image by Waratah Lahy, who paints onto various surfaces such as beer glasses, blankets and flattened beer-cans. She did a dog beer-can cut-out that I thought would be perfect.

germ of an idea
This is the germ of the idea, done with some simply-scanned things, including Waratah's image (with her blessing!).

next thought
Then I played some more, using just the dog shape. I've always liked really simple, elegant book covers.

But while Michelle loved the actual doggie object, she said it wasn't the right sort of dog. This is when I realised that she had a specific dog in mind, and it was her dog, Gus (who has since died, poor lovie).


Well, of course, that changed everything. And the dog needed to be stressed, to be more lost in its body language. I think with those earlier drafts I had been concentrating less on the type of dog and more on the feel of the narrative... I wanted to convey a lot of feeling with very little information. I wanted it to feel contemporary, arty, airy, and very Australian. I wanted to break away from that 'Commonwealth writer' tag that keeps Michelle in a certain Auslit corner.

*  *  *  *

Hmm. Back to the drawing board. Michelle and her A&U team liked the textures I was playing with, so I jigged up some more ideas involving a typecase and some grungy old paper I'd photographed years ago. The paper had been lining an ancient case of woodtype that had been dumped like an abandoned baby on the doorstep of the museum in Bega.

After a lot of emails (I still haven't met Michelle or the A&U team in person! This was a very 21st-century relationship! But I intend to meet her next time I'm in Melbourne.) we headed in a direction that made everyone happy, using the typecase (completely altered in its compartment configuration) and the paper and lots of elements that hopefully draw upon the amount of detail Michelle lovingly renders in her writing.

Lost Dog

If you read the novel (and you should), it will all make a bit of sense, hopefully. But nothing included on the cover is specific, more just moments caught in the pages. And I did get to use some original Australian art, with the Deborah Williams etching of the dog at the bottom. If you like it, there's more here. I still hope to use Waratah's work for something in the future, because I think it would work beautifully with someone's narrative.

For me the best bits of working on this book (besides reading it) was designing its inner bits, the less obvious little touches. The text design was fun, but I loved doing the endpapers, because they're very 'me'. Michelle and A&U were inspired by the British cover of John Baxter's A Pound of Paper, with its samples of old book covers. I thought about what we were doing, making the inside of a book cover, and I scanned some of the paper covers from my collection of old Angus & Robertson poetry volumes. I scanned the insides of them, with their faded and torn bits, and collaged them together to make booky underclothes. I think it worked quite well.

This is the back endpaper. Michelle wanted an old-fashioned autograph page at each end of the book, with very specific text (part of the narrative, really), so they had to be manufactured from scratch as well. I'm very proud of the way they look so authentic.

*  *  *  *

I haven't changed from when I first started layout and design. In my head I still know what I want, and I'm still working out the ways to get there. I think formal training would have locked me in a box that would have been hard to get out of, so while part of my brain suspects that I'm woefully amateur, another part treasures the fact that I'm a bit of a wildflower instead of a hothouse flower.

All of this stuff, of course, feeds into my letterpress work, and my letterpress work feeds into my design. And my bottom line is: start with traditional rules and keep it simple. There's plenty of designers out there who do layered and decorative really well.

To be honest, I'm never completely happy with anything I finish, but that is hopefully a sign that I'll do better next time if I make myself think hard about what I don't like. I'm not going to say here what I don't like, because I like Michelle and her book too much.* Suffice to say that the kind of things that niggle at me are things that others don't usually notice, and my loved ones think I'm too fussy. That's ok, it's my bugbear, not theirs. It's all part of the "Learning Journey" :)

*  *  *  *

I must say, I'm a bit annoyed at some of the reviews I've been reading of this book. I know I'm absolutely biased, but what I've been seeing smacks of -- not jealousy or spite -- but of the sort of criticism an English teacher would give to their best pupil, a level of chastising reserved for someone who already does well, and the lesser students wouldn't get. I'd expect that sort of review in-house, in maybe a literary journal or something, but surely when you're writing in a major newspaper, the object is to communicate something of the novel to the general public, no? Maybe I'm out of touch that way. But in the review I linked to, the subtext is 'Great novel, but she could do better'. Surely you could make it clearer that in terms of writing in this country, it's an excellent novel, and have a quick para about the niggly bits so as not to detract?

Meh, what do I know? I'm just the designer. We don't read.

* For what it's worth, though, my personal favorite design idea is the last one before the final above. But I do like the absolute final a hell of a lot.

Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla (thanks to Tim for the encouragement!)

Drawmo 23

Best Beloved stopped jittering around the house listening to the radio nervously for long enough for me to do a -- gasp! -- pencil drawing of his feet.

Not brilliant, but it's a real, live drawing, made today!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Drawmo 22: binding notes


And, as usual for a Thursday, here is the drawingest thing I did in bookbinding class tonight. I wanted to remember the tricky little thing my teacher did with the bookpress to flatten an old bookblock I'd just stripped.

Sorry about the scrawl...

Drawmo 21: The Black Bean Blower

Can I just say that, as challenging as my daily problem-solving regime is at the moment, there is NOTHING so challenging as a child saying 'I'm doing a play in Drama and I need a costume', and that the costume -- complete with props -- is needed the next day. This is, of course, said at bedtime. Again.

Yesterday I leapt out of bed to create a costume for the role of a superhero called The Black Bean Blower, who was the Star of the Show. Luckily we have various elements of superhero attire, and a black texta.


This is the black bean, drawn on a white Bonds singlet. Combined with the mask, some black footless tights, a pair of bright green soft boxer-shorts made from t-shirt material over the top of the tights, and a cunning green lizardy cape (lent to us by Zoe years ago, thanks so much!), he looked pretty cool in a kooky oddball sort of way, which was just what we needed.

The only thing we didn't have was a jar of black jellybeans, which was the essential prop needed. We rode our bikes to Woollies on the way to school, but they didn't have any. I suggested just buying a packet of multi-coloured ones, from which he could pluck the black ones out, but he looked a bit sad at that, so I promised to ride into Civic after dropping him at school and get some from Darrell Lea, then drop them into school at 3.00 before Drama started.

Puff, pant! I rode around, got the beans, and spent the rest of the day in a warm glow of Good Motherness. I haven't put in a big effort this year, school-wise, and a good burst of costume-making always seems to catch me up, like a big burst of brownie points.

So. I get to the school at 3, backpack bursting with black jellybeans, only to discover that the play had been performed at lunchtime for the whole school and was not going to be performed again. And that they'd used a packet of multi-coloured jellybeans provided by the teacher and he'd picked out the black ones for the blowing. And no-one had thought to ring me to see if I was on my way with the beans.

My face looked so downcast that the drama teacher instantly scheduled a special Parents-Who-Couldn't-Make-It-During-The-Day performance next week in drama class. A mother standing next to me while I took in the information gently leaned over to me and said 'It was really good, if that's any consolation.'

Thank you, but NO, IT BLOODY ISN'T!

I haven't been so disappointed for years. I was crushed and cranky at Bumblebee for forgetting about me and my quest.

I'm over it now, and looking forward to seeing it next week. Hopefully in a Brave New World with Kerry Tucker as Prom Queen of the Senate.

Drawmo 20: from the vault

boat people

A cartoon I drew in 2001 for a community consciousness raiser organisation. Of course, it's still relevant. Please peoples, vote the cnuts out on Saturday. PLEASE.

Looking for a little Lost Dog

I know, I know, I'm being slack with Drawmo, but there's a reason. Well, it's not a brilliant reason, no more than usual, but never mind.

This is more important (to me), and I'm going to take a leaf out of Laura's book and appeal to teh interwebs for help...

Apparently Allen & Unwin have released a little 'teaser' sample booklet of the first chapter of The Lost Dog, Michelle de Kretser's excellent new novel. As you may or may not know, I designed that particular tome, and while I have a copy of the book, having the little one would be great for my portfolio.

I emailed A&U as soon as I knew to see if I could get a copy or two of the teasers, but they're all gone, off to coffee shops and maybe bookshops.

Could I beg you lovely literate people to send me a copy if you find one? Address is here. I'd be very grateful and send you something in return. I don't mind if I only get one or end up with 5. I'd still be uber-grateful!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Drawmo 19

BTW, my Drawmo contribution for yesterday is the offering of a song:

Spinning Away, by Brian Eno and John Cale, from the album Wrong Way Up.

It's all about drawing, and where the act of drawing can lead your mind. It's a sublime song, especially through headphones. Download it and enjoy.

Up on a hill, as the day dissolves
With my pencil turning moments into line
High above in the violet sky
A silent silver plane - it draws a golden chain

One by one, all the stars appear
As the great winds of the planet spiral in
Spinning away, like the night sky at Arles
In the million insect storm, the constellations form

On a hill, under a raven sky
I have no idea exactly what I've drawn
Some kind of change, some kind of spinning away
With every single line moving further out in time

And now as the pale moon rides (in the stars)
Her form in my pale blue lines (in the stars)

And there, as the world rolls round (in the stars)
I draw, but the lines move round (in the stars)

There, as the great wheels blaze (in the stars)
I draw, but my drawing fades (in the stars)

And now, as the old sun dies (in the stars)
I draw, and the four winds sigh (in the stars)

Poppy meme

I got tagged for a meme today. I feel like a jaded old blogger when I not only get tagged, but when the tag comes with rules and they make me smile for no other reason than I've read them in some variation or other for years now:

Rule-posting first:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names, and links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Goodness. Is there anything I haven't written about myself? I'm such a blurter, even my mechanic probably knows more about me than my parents.

1. I hate the lead-up to Christmas. Call me Scrooge, but I don't want to hear a jingle or see red and green until at least December. My son's school has gone into caretaker mode, ceasing all useful activities because it's 'close to Christmas' (still 5 weeks of school!). I'd rather they just let them out of school two weeks early than make them do all the mindless gumph like cutting and pasting and video-watching while the teachers run around organising the next year. And I loath supermarkets at Christmastime, which seems to be the end of September until 25 December, when suddenly it all ceases and the deco changes in favour of New Year's Day/Australia Day/ Easter. GAH.

2. I love cats' nipples. Especially on boy cats. That is intelligent design.

3. Every time I try to clean the house for my mother-in-law, the vacuum cleaner needs a new bag or filter and there's no time to get one. Trying to pass off the brown carpet covered in black cat-hair swirls as an animal print pattern seems a bit desperate.

4. I just don't get PCs. My brain can't cope with their functionality.

5. I would sell my soul at the moment for another month or two of cool weather. Printing in heat sucks.

Hmmm... tagging... trying to think of people who would like the thought of another meme... Bernice, because she needs to de-stress and her answers always crack me up. TimT, because he never seems stressed and everything he writes cracks me up. The Brontes, because we can never know enough about them and they need a bit of a bum-kick. Dean, not because he's un-memed, but because I want him to write 5 interesting things about his new car. And... Megsie from GlassCentralCanberra. Maybe 5 random things about the sexiness of the Canberra Glass scene? Heh.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The sweet spot

and then there's those (uncommon) days where you set up the next woodblock and realise that it's a completely different height to the last one, and you spend half the day trying to get it to print ok. It's being very frustrating: smudges here, pressure lines there. It had to be padded, the rollers tweaked, the press bed raised and subtly lowered. So many variables...

You get to 3pm and think oh well, I'll get it set up and then edition it tomorrow -- oh damn, I can't tomorrow, I'm getting my hair cut and it's circus school day, I have to pick Bumblebee up at 3. oh well, I'll edition on Wednesday.

And then you print the perfect print. You've hit The Sweet Spot.

So you think, I'll just print a batch, and when the rollers fall down or it starts getting hard, I'll stop and do the rest on Wednesday.

But they keep printing well. You ring the partner, and yes, he can pick up child from after-school care. They keep printing well.

Suddenly it's 7pm and you know that if you just keep going they'll be finished, and you'll feel like a champion.

At 8.30 your son rings and wishes you goodnight wistfully as he goes to bed. Time to put something energetic on the stereo. So what if the security guard spies you dancing up and down beside the press?

Then it's 9.30 and you've finished 260 prints. But you don't feel like a champion. You feel old and tired, and the back of your neck is burning. That was a twelve-hour effort. And all you've eaten is a packet of chocolate buttons and four scotch finger biscuits. The sort of working day you'd only do for yourself, not for a boss.

But. They are are printed.

You can't even muster the energy to say hoora...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Drawmo 18

block wipe drawing

This is another conceptual drawing; well, I claim it as a drawing because I like the marks. It's the rag I used to skim the side of the wood engraving block I was printing -- successfully -- today. Each mark is a skim.

Forgive my brevity, I'm absolutely shagged. I printed about 300 pages today in total, including the bloody test prints and crap ones. I've been on my feet all day, and I see out the window that there is some refreshingly light rain to ride my bicycle home in.


Drawmo 17: desperate measures

Placement sketches made as I tried desperately to find the best position on the press for the wookblock I was printing. Each one gets simpler until I've made a quick final notation of the one that works.

placement sketches

The little circles indicate the gripper end of the press. The rectangles with circles in them are quoins.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Drawmo 16 (a day late)

Gah. I've had the most frustrating day, trying to print an edition of a wood engraving using the letterpress press. I solved the problem of the ink being grey (by adding pigment-rich woodblock ink to the letterpress ink) and I solved the packing pressure problem; now I've got to perfect the height of the rollers so that they ink strongly but don't leave a white pressure line on the far end of the block. If anyone out there has any tips for printing type-high woodblocks on a flatbed cylinder press, I'd be very happy to hear them. For the most part the prints are looking great, but to a trained eye like the expert printmaker who wandered in at lunchtime, the line is a problem.

Sigh. So I haven't managed any drawings, other than the ones in my head. So here's yesterday's, from the vault as usual (feeling very slack):

bruce dawe

I drew this portrait of Australian poet Bruce Dawe whilst he was reading his work aloud at a Canberra poetry festival in either 2002 or 2003. Doesn't he have the best nose to draw? His poetry is good, too.

It's drawn right at the edge of a sketchbook page, hence the line on the left.

I'm still at the Book Stud, and there's nothing else in this particular sketchbook worth sharing, so I'll see what I can find when I get home for today's Drawmo. You never know, I might even skritch something up between riding home and going out to a friend's daughter's 21st (something that makes us all feel very old, like tribal elders. My friend was 16 when her daughter was born! Gawd, we could all be great-Aunties soon... if she was that was inclined, which she isn't.)

Friday, November 16, 2007


I just found a post that rings my bells. I like a bit of printing attitude on a friday afternoon. Or should that be ALTITUDE?

Ahem. I'm nowhere near as fierce as that blogger, but sometimes I wish I could be.

Remember to breathe

morning glory

It's been a while, hasn't it?

Colonel and Lady Duck's garden is glorious in Spring.

*woops, I got in trouble for saying it was my mother's garden when my dad apparently does all the work in it these days... sorry, Colonel Duck!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Drawmo 15: from the vault

Another busy Thursday, but I didn't do any working drawings at Bookbinding class, so I pulled something from the vault. I figure it's better than not doing any drawing...

This one makes me laugh. We were doing a project at art school where our brief was to make plaster casts of bits of our body and then use the casts to mould handmade paper, then manipulate those pieces and photograph them, developing the photos ourselves. Phew! It was very involved. But it meant thinking about our bodies as subject/object/whatever, and I'd JUST got accidentally pregnant to a man who wasn't the husband I was breaking up with. GAH.*


The funny thing is that if I was doing a self-portrait of my relationship with my body right now, this is pretty close to what I'd draw. That look on the face sums up my personal mind-body dichotomy. Heh.

This is drawn in watercolour graphite, with a touch of watercolour colour pencil, with the head on the left page of the sketchbook and the pelvis on the right. The book gutter really makes a gulf between the original drawings...

* I have NO idea why Drawmo is bringing up so many memories from this period. Maybe it's because it was a time when I really loved drawing, and filled lots of sketchbooks?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Drawmo 14

Computer drawing today. Zoe asked me to create a Keating of the Sacred Heart, and this is what I came up with.

Don't look for too long, or your eyes will bleed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Drawmo 13

I make my own diaries these days, because I can't find a commercial diary with enough doodle space. In my version, every week has at least a double blank page for lists, ideas and mindless doodles. Is there any other kind of doodle?

This was done tonight at a Bookbinders' Guild Committee meeting. I'm their newsletter and web mistress. I don't take notes about anything else, and I listen better with a moving pencil in my hand. You should see my lecture/high school notes :)


[And yes, Ellis Hutch, I did wave at you today from my huge silver sigh of a car. Hai!)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Drawmo 12: A New Hope

It's not easy being green premenstrual with a broken press. The lowest lows, the highest highs, and hormones in between. No wonder Best Beloved caught an early plane to Melbourne yesterday. He's at some sort of airport conference; every time he goes to one of these things he comes home laden with promotional crap, just because they gave it to him. Gah. There's only three of us in the house, five if you count the kitties, and he brought home NINE baseball caps last trip, all embroidered with logos of flight or oil companies. I wanted to have a ritual burning, but it would have increased my envo-footprint more than the making of the caps did. Double GAH. He's under stern instructions to resist, this time. I don't want anything else in the house with a picture of an airplane on it, unless it's a ticket. For all of us.

Anyhoo, today was the first chance I had to ring someone about fixing the press. All weekend I'd feared the worst -- obscure parts needed that would take months to import from some museum in Germany (it's an obscure German press). Instead I got three cheery fellows from ANU Facilities and Services who whooped with delight at seeing such a grand old lady (the press, not me) and rolled their sleeves up. They poked and prodded and debated excitedly about seals and fluid thingies and dryness before one of them cried EUREKA and held up a shard of hollow pin, something that had shattered and wasn't connecting to the doobie (see Naomi? It is a usable word) that went around and thus the rollers couldn't be supported. Nothing to do with oil!

Then there was a tense waiting period when Bloke 1 ran back to their workshop where they had a storage room of Half of the Things You Need and the Other Half the Things You'll Never Need Again (their words). This pin would come from the latter category. While we were waiting, Bloke 2 (a first-year apprentice) watched admiringly while Bloke 3 negotiated dinner at his girlfriend's mum's place later in the week ("Geez you're slack, I'm surprised she still admits you're her daughter. How about I cook? I can do lamb with heaps of garlic and rosemary. Yeah!") and I doodled:


It's a Waiting Doodle. I do variations of it when I'm stuck somewhere or listening to something. This one started a lot darker and blobbier, then I rubbed out and as things got better over the morning it got lighter and bubblier. It's small, only about 3cm across.

Bloke 1 came back with the exact size pin. There was much cheering and rejoicing, especially from me. They had other urgent things to do, so they just fixed the most pressing urgent problem and promised to be back in the next few days to give it a proper oil change and service. I think they like her. She's pretty endearing, albeit Brunhilda-ish.

So I could print my colophon this afternoon! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Happy girl. Doesn't take much. And now my project is back on track. And I got to have a lovely day yesterday with Bumblebee, wallowing in chocolate. And there's a new Machine Translations album out, which I bought yesterday, which is terrific, apart from the best song being spoiled by a bloody ghost track. (I hate the construct of ghost tracks. All that bloody space and you can't listen to the two songs independently. But the ghost track itself is lovely.) And two of my loveliest cousins bought me a book voucher for my birthday (love vouchers of any kind, thanks!) and I used it yesterday to buy Garth Nix's Abhorsen so I'm finally finishing the trilogy. So again, all's right with the world, and I'm a lucky, lucky woman.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Drawmo 11: ...but not in a hotel in Amsterdam, unfortunately.

The press isn't irreparable, but the repairs will set back my schedule a tad. Thankfully there are other things I can do, like prepare bookcloth and sort out ink colours etc.

I'm having a Kwality day with Bumblebee today. The plan was to see a movie then go to the Walk against Climate Change, and then go to Koko Black for afternoon tea (I needed the chocolate more than him, I confess).

I took him to Across the Universe, which was fab, and he really enjoyed it, but then he had a minor freak-out at the sight of the huge crowd at the protest walk. We ended up trailing behind it for a bit, then going straight to Koko Black, where he finally confessed that after the movie scenes where protesters get abused, he thought it might happen to us. Fair enough. It was good to discuss the issue (and many others the film provoked) over a platter of yum.

Anyhoo, here's a shell. Something non-emotional, just a shell, in Fineliner pen on paper. From about five years ago. Enjoy.


Drawmo 10: oops, I'm on a lost weekend

Hmm. Drawmo crisis!

Yesterday my day went pear-shaped -- my press broke! And other various things happened to make me come home and use a bottle of wine to become a puddle of goo. And today I just want/ed to keep off the computer, so I'm coming on quickly to blog two more Drawmo from the Vaults and then I'm off again.

This one is an idea I had for making dolls for a project. The workshop I was in used to make us respond as a group to a piece of text. I've lost the piece of text, but still have the drawing, obviously using Bumblebee and I for models.

It's drawn with a water-soluble graphite pencil.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Drawmo 9: from the vault

This is becoming a bit of a pattern, I see. No time today, even though it's not a real working day on Fridays, just sorting out the AP's various problems and running around doing general errands. We went out to Artwranglers again tonight for the Rachel Jessie-Rae opening and walked home in the rain; now all I want to do is go to bed, so here's a sketch (since there's been a poignant Bumblebee theme this week) I made while I was sitting around the hospital before B's heart operation ten years ago, and then the embroidery I made from the drawing whilst sitting next to his bed in intensive care during the long hours of night waiting to see if he'd pull through.


He was such a grumpy-old-man-looking baby, because he hadn't put on any weight and was always tired. After the operation he fattened up a bit, and I had about 6 months of a jolly fat baby, then he thinned out again and has stayed that way.


A little anecdote: his cardiac surgeon, a very experienced and capable surgeon who is one of the top in his field, stopped by to check on his little patient (Bumblebee was three months old). He saw me stitching this piece, and marvelled at my workmanship. I replied that he must be joking -- this from a man who can customise a heart no bigger than a walnut. He smiled at me gently (he has a beatific smile) and said, 'isn't it wonderful that we all have our special talents!' I heart that man, srsly, no joke intended.

I do love drawing in thread, but it's very time-consuming. It's on my list for illness recuperation activities or retirement, along with weaving and jewellery making.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Drawmo 8: books again

o hai.

I always feel a bit sheepish after a blurt like that. Thanks to everyone thinking good thoughts my way; I walk around in a dream when I feel like that, until I get it out of my system. I can't remember how I used to get things out of my system before blogging. My diaries, of course, but they're such miserable reads when your audience is yourself. And I probably made life hell for any boyfriend of the time. Blogging is healthier. And so life-affirming.


Well, another busy thursday. Only one assessment, but a lovely one, by a student who made quiet, spare, powerful books about her grandparents, almost grieving for her loss before they even die. They have been giving away their things, keeping only the furniture and things that remind them of their younger days, and their house is taking on the slightly haunted feeling of a museum. She conveyed that beautifully.

I set the colophon for my book, which took all day because there is so much information and I was setting it in 8-point type, very bad for the eyes.

You don't know what a colophon is? Anyone who makes artist's books take note: the colophon is an essential ingredient of a non-production-line book. It's a bit like the copyright page at the front of a mainstream book. You give all the information the reader wants/needs to know.

Your name
The title
Who wrote the text (or designed the content)
Who made the images (if any)
What the book is made of (papers, type, printing process)
What the binding consists of (perfect bound, case bound, stab bound, etc, and by whom)
Where the book was made, what year, and in what edition (or if it's a unique state).

It doesn't have to be complicated; maker, year and edition can be the simplest form. Or if you care about who appreciates the work you've done, or if you need to acknowledge collaborators or funding bodies, the colophon is the place to do it.

It's usually the last page in the book, or sometimes the inside back cover. Or wherever the hell you want it to be, go nuts.

Ahem ahem. Sorry, that's the rant of a believer. I see so many good books made and left to fate with no indication of who did all the work. It's sad.

Then I went to book binding class. And again I'll use a working sketch for my Drawmo contribution.

bookbinding notebook

I'm making a box to house the limp-bound book I finished last week. When I've done the whole lot I'll show it off.

So buggered. Sleepy bo-bos. Bai.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Drawmo 7: heartstrings

Most mothers would say that they have pretty good insight into their child's heart. I go one better: I get a regular look inside my child's actual heart.

Today Bumblebee and I made our biennial visit to the paediatric cardiologist, to get his heart checked out. After the usual manual checks on pulses (Bumblebee can easily name six places to find a pulse in the body) and blood pressure, the echocardiography machine is fired up and the ultrasound commences.

It's the same as a pelvic ultrasound: cold jelly, lying still, looking at the ceiling. Bumblebee manages the still thing as well as can be expected when everyone else in the room is cooing over how beautiful the images are.

Two years ago, and every year before that (he used to have annual checkups), I would look at the ultrasound images and marvel at the intricate nature of the human body. I would listen to the gritty swishing sound that my son's heartbeat was making and think how well the black and white imagery would translate into a woodcut print.

This year, however, my mind kept being drawn to the contrast between the ultrasounds I've had in past years and this one. To the sound of his heartbeat and those awkward and painful moments of finding no heartbeat at all. The sight of all that pumping and wriggling and flashing colours amongst the grainy black and white next to the memory of that cold unmoving black space surrounded by my own warm flesh.

Best Beloved and I had The Conversation last week. It was the one we needed to have, the one he'd been avoiding and I'd been rehearsing for months, finally going to a counsellor to help me find the words. And when it happened, I didn't feel a sense of relief. In fact, I'm still trying to find a way to make my mind accept it, even though it's my decision.

I drew the line. I don't want to get pregnant again. I just can't try again. I don't think I could cope with [a] the fear [b] the hope and [c] the resentment (my own, at yet another few months of being forced to do NOTHING, and have an outcome of nothing). It would be more destructive than creative, I'm certain of that.

My GP is utterly supportive. Every other specialist and advisor tells me there's a chance, if we use IVF, if we have millions of tests every step of the way, if we hope. My female GP, who has been with me every step of the way so far, offered to write me the equivalent of a note excusing me from class. 'You're now 40, you've got your own physical factors increasing risk, and you've got a history of problems, including a child with congenital defects. I think you can safely say you've done your best.' Bless her.

I don't know if I have done my best, but I've tried. But I can't keep trying. Now I just have to make peace with myself. Best Beloved was amazing. He's utterly supportive, albeit sad, and resigned to a life full of cats. And Bumblebee. At least we've got this marvellous boy, who gives us daily joy and challenges, whom all my doctors have said is a miracle. Who could want more than one miracle in a lifetime?

I was brought back to earth today (luckily before I burst into tears) by the cardiologist saying 'oh, he's got a heartstring in his left ventricle'. A what? A heartstring! I watched it wibble back and forth as his blood ebbed and flowed. I had no idea they were anything but poetic creations. I've just done a quick bit of web investigation and apparently they help to strengthen the walls of the ventricle, although some surgeons think they are unnecessary and removable matter.

My drawmo is a hand-drawn diagram of a heart and its valves (from a picture I saw on the web), and I've drawn in what I think I saw onscreen in the ultrasound, although probably not to scale (and I may have even got the wrong bit of the heart!). The background 'noise' is a piece of paper I ran through the rollers of the press before I cleaned them... I do that regularly, and keep the paper because I'm a sucker for textures.


I love the fact that I've seen my boy's heartstring. I love the fact that I'm lucky enough to have a child. A lot of women go through a lot more than I've done and come away with a lot less. So I'm grateful. And sad. And weary. But now we can just get on with life, and I think we'll be a lot stronger for it.

* I haven't discussed this with my parents or wider family yet. Consider this an icebreaker, my loved ones. It's hard to say these things out loud, especially when you are the vehicle for everyone else's dreams. (I wish sometimes that men could have wombs. But then my feminist streak slaps me in the face and says NO YOU DON'T! And she's right. I really don't. But sometimes it would even things out a bit...)

PS: If you want a soundtrack to this post, try Lisa Miller's 'Words for Sadness' from her Car Tape CD. It works very well indeed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Drawmo 6, juiced up a bit

I printed over 400 pages today, then rode my bike past hordes of stupid drunken people, the females all under-dressed and freezing their young silly tits off in the glorious 15 degrees we were granted today for weather, as obviously wearing anything as sensible as a jacket or sleeves would have undermined their femininity. I loathe Melbourne Cup day.

I rode straight past my house, as I had a whim to see Zoe, and if I'd stopped off at home I would have flopped into a chair and stayed there, as is my post-printing habit.

As it was, I flopped into one of her chairs and was poured a large glass of wine, then invited to share a stupendously yummy curry dinner.

A few more glasses of wine later, we decided to participate in Drawmo together using Sage's CARS etch-a-sketch. So today I have a guest draw-er.

Zoe first, although she shows me up. This woman can draw. I love her drawings. She could be a wonderful artist, but she chooses to squander her talents on law, politics and blog design. Sigh. She's bringing up her son to be artistic, which is a. good. thing.


This is myself and Willa of Artwranglers. Drawing on an etch-a-sketch (that's a really hard thing to type after half a bottle of wine) is tricky because you can't just wipe out a part of the drawing without buggering up the whole thing. So it's all or nothing. No tweaking, just grit your teeth and do it. Zoe did this in one go.

I took a few false starts, trying to draw Nigel and the cat, but ended up doing Zoe herself, the kitchen goddess using her amazing juicer.

kitchen goddess

I took the photo from a distance because I wanted to feature the etch-a-sketch itself, Zoe being a car afficionado. So the decorative border is part of the portrait (which doesn't really look like her... or maybe it's what she looks like after half a bottle of white).

Then I got on my treadley and wobbled back home in the dark, to find Best Beloved making blackcurrent jam and Bumblebee roaring with laughter at Red Dwarf on ABC 2. Lovely. All's right with the world.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Post-script and Drawmo 5

It's slightly shameful how happy I can be when I discover a small stash of brand new Ls in amongst the M part of the typecase. Lower case Ls are what I run out of first in this particular font (Bodoni). I think their poor stalks and serifs are too easily worn and damaged. Finding a small stash (we're talking 4, 5 max) made me do a little dance on the spot. Such a geek, me.

Anyhoo, this is a quick post to promote a couple of great booky courses coming up! They need participants!

1. Sturt Summer School, Mittagong, NSW. First week of January. Lots of fun things to do, hear and see, and one of them is me. If they don't get another few participants, my course won't run, which would be a mixed blessing.

2. The Monash Rare Book Summer School, Melbourne, VIC. This looks like more fun than you can poke a stick at, but I'll be working with an artist that week, printing something fun hopefully. So you'll have to go instead.

OK, I didn't get around to drawing today. I did set four of the last five pages of type that I have to print for the first book. And assessed two students. And ate pizza. And worked on turning someone's PhD into a book. So this is the first of my drawings from the archive. And since I was entranced by the LOLcat Bible this morning, I found it funny that I opened one of my old sketchbooks at this page, from about 11 years ago:

lust obgect

OK, it's a cartoon, and an unfinished one at that (although I have reformatted it to run vertically). So sue me. I was hoping to publish a more polished version in Fruity Murmurs, a groovy art-school run comic of the time, but then it got a bit too close to the bone,* and I abandoned it.

*Friends of the time have probably worked out the context of this, and are allowed to vomit.

... but he did not eated it

Those of you in the know probably saw this already, but it's too good not to pass on in as many ways as possible..

The LOLCAT bible. Genius!

24 So man muv out da basement an lives wif da womenz, an be all u can puts your toofbrush nexta mine an I no eats you.

25 and teh man and teh woman weared invisible clothes! Cause dey had teh secksy.
[Genesis 2]

23 An latr on Pharo died an all teh Jews werre llike, too much wurk An htis suxxxxxx rly rly terabl. 4 realz.

24 An Ceiling Cat herd em say it, and saied to hisself Oh rite i 4got. I is ment to not let that hapn. sry i iz stil n00b Ceiling Cat An i wil fixz htat bug in urths version 2.1.

25 An Ceiling Cat gave props to teh Heberws, srsly.
[Exodus 2]

From Blogger on the Cast Iron Balconey, who got it from Echidne, who got it from... begat, begat, begat...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Drawmo 4 and a lost dog

This one is again type-related. Before I cleaned my freshly-printed type, I did a bit of hand-pressing into this scrap of paper, and then did a quick self portrait. I didn't actually look at myself, just scribbled and rubbed and scribbled, so it's an idealistic SP, more about how my head is constantly overflowing with ideas than a faithful reproduction.

Stop Press


Also, I have a confession. I have a book out.

Well, it's not MY book, but I clothed it, and I've been meaning to blog about it since its release, but I don't seem to have the time to devote to a decent post. I will, because I'd like to help promote it. It's The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser, and I designed the cover and text layout. Pav outed me the other day at Sarsaparilla, which was a delightful thing, gave me a smile all day, and gave me a mental kick up the pants for not blogging about it.

All I can say at the moment (because I have a press to clean and a son to pick up) is GO AND BUY THE BOOK. It's a very, very good read, and if she doesn't get nominated for an award at the very least I will have no respect for the Aus Lit community.

Drawmo 3

I know, this is day 4, but this is the drawing for day 3. For the record, I mounted it on Flikr yesterday (from work), but by the time I got home from printing and the movies (Control! gasp!) there was a raging thunderstorm and our street flooded to knee-deep and we stood on the front verandah gaping at the idiots trying to drive through it (one succeeded, and flooded their engine), and the computer didn't get turned on all night.


So here it is. It's a quiet piece, a bit conceptual, and probably a bit hard to see. I laid a piece of paper on the bench next to my typecase, and as I was dissing the type, I'd drop the quad spaces and the 2-em spaces on the piece of paper, and then tip them into a bigger tub once the pile looked substantial. I do this quite a lot, and yesterday I realised that it was a drawing. I love the pointed dots where the corner of the blocks hit the paper. And they're lead marks, just like any pencil drawing.

Ellis Hutch just compared this to Neil Roberts' basketball-bounce drawings, which inspires me to keep going with this bit of paper for the whole month -- I'll show how it progresses maybe once a week.

KTHXBAI, have to go and print now. No rest for the deadline-driven.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Drawmo 2

Another long day, but in the middle of it I was trying to work on the computer and Mr Pooter jumped on my lap for a snuggle. His arm stretched out, towards the keybort. I grabbed the nearest bit of paper and started doodling, and he of course moved his arm. So I moved the pencil. And then the phone rang and the day went on and here I am, at 11.03pm with just this doodle.


Other friends observing Drawmo so far (that I know of, let me know if I've missed you): Ellis Hutch

And someone not observing Drawmo, but who draws every day: Mandy Ord

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Drawmo 1

And so November begins, and with it my pledge to partake in Drawmo, and do a drawing a day for the month.

Drawing is such a broad term. When most people think of drawing, they think of highly accurate, rendered illustrative pieces, and bemoan the fact that they're no good at it. Or that they loved drawing as a child but stopped doing it when they realised they were dreadful at it. Such a shame. As a child you're not trying to draw a thing, you're DRAWING. Getting fully into the process of making a mark, and the making of the mark is the fun, no matter how it looks afterwards. Many drawing-based artists never lose that sensation.

In the studio/workshop/institution/discipline within which I operate, drawing is a very fluid thing, based more upon exploration and experimentation than upon likeness or accurateness. It is a process, a doing, rather than a means towards an end. The sort of work that emerges around me by the staff and students ranges from what people think a 'real' artist should be producing to things that few would readily identify as a drawing. Just look at the catalogue* for our recent alumni drawing show (which, if I may blow a trumpet out of my arse, I designed, to a very tight deadline) and you will see what I mean.

My own drawings can't really be termed a drawing 'practice'; I don't draw often enough. But I do draw, and when I do, I love it. I know that during this month I'll start tight and loosen up, as is my wont. I've also decided that if I miss a day, I'll fill the gap with an old drawing, just to keep the visual flow going.

Today I've had a long day, assessing students from two separate classes, then working on my own project, and then going to my bookbinding class and riding home through the rainy night on my bicycle. I'm stuffed. So my first humble offering is a working sketch from my bookbinding notebook:

JT_binding notes

I hope it will suffice.

(and for those of you who wanted to do this but missed the first day, join in! And let me know you're doing it so I can link to you on Drawmo)

*If you would like a paper copy of the catalogue, contact the friendly people at the ANU School of Art Gallery. We printed a thousand, and they're free. I'm sure you'd just have to pay the postage.