KINDLING — coming soon!

My first short story collection, Kindling, is going to be published by Small Beer Press! All going well, it should come out this October.

A fabulous debut of folk tales and fantasies by an award winning author and illustrator.

Small fires start in the hearts of Kathleen Jennings’s characters and irresistibly spread to those around them. Journeys are taken, debts repaid, disguises put on, and lessons offered — although not often learned — in these fantastic tales. Jennings’s confident voice lulls readers into stepping off the known paths to find “Undine Love,” “The Heart of Owl Abbas,” and further unexpected places and people.

Small Beer Press

I love love love that line “lessons offered — although not often learned”. Tragedies aside, there is something delightful about characters who don’t succeed in fully learning their lessons.

(Thanks go to many people — not least Small Beer Press! — and, as always, very much to Angela Slatter who helped not only many of the stories but also the collection into existence.)

Cover details to come…

Drawing of candle — yellow and white on a black background
(From the 2021 April calendar pattern)

Map exhibition: Philadelphia

Mapping Imagination — The Art of Worldbuilding

For those in Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia’s exhibition Mapping Imagination: The Art of World-Building is now on on the Third Floor of Parkway Central Library, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free.

And their collection includes signed prints of my maps for Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series!.

The Free Library’s newest exhibition, Mapping Imagination: The Art of World-Building, is a collaboration between the Map Collection and Children’s Literature Research Collection that explores the creative and artistic choices that mapmakers use to build worlds and enhance storytelling. Traditional maps of real places dating from the 17th century to present, are displayed beside imaginary maps from various genres — fantasy, science fiction, graphic novels, and more — to highlight the role artistic and creative decisions play in building and characterizing real and fantastical worlds. Mapping Imagination features tactile maps and an audio narration to supplement your exhibition experience.

Illustrations and a talk! Spowers & Syme / A Matter of Looking at QUT Art Museum

Two new exhibitions have just opened at the QUT Art Museum at QUT Gardens Point, Brisbane (alongside the City botanic gardens) — Spowers & Syme (a National Gallery Touring Exhibition), and the companion exhibition from the QUT Art Museum’s collection, A Matter of Looking.

They are both warm and vivid and generous exhibitions. I highly recommend checking them out, particularly as many of the fragile works in Spowers & Syme — with all their interwar energy — may not be on exhibition again for some time.

And, accordingly, I was thrilled to be asked to design illustrations for the activity space, getting to spend time staring at all these works and distilling them down to a tumble of black-and-white energy. (I love playing in others’ worlds, whether artists or authors, trying to see through their eyes and then again, anew, through my own.)

Table and wall in art gallery covered with many small silhouette images of

AND the museum has just announced that they are part of the Brisbane Art & Design festival this May! As part of that, I will be there for an artist floor talk!

Join QUT Galleries and Museums Engagement Officer, Renae Belton in conversation with local illustrator and writer Kathleen Jennings who has been commissioned to design an activity space where people can explore pattern making, drawing and creative play whilst visiting our current exhibitions, ‘Spowers & Syme’ and ‘A Matter of Looking: 20th century works from the QUT Art Collection’.

Date: Friday 12 May
When: 12:30 -1:30PM
Place: QUT Art Museum
Free, bookings essentials, registrations via Eventbrite.

‘Spowers & Syme’ is a National Gallery Touring Exhibition supported by Visions of Australia, Major Patron David Thomas AM, and the Gordon Darling Foundation. ‘Spowers & Syme’ is a Know My Name project.

BAD logo — smiley face of BAD in black on bright yellow

The robust fictional family (from observation journal notes)

These observation journal pages are both in pursuit of a fascination with robust characters and fictional families. (Thematically connected: Favourite tropes about families.)

This began with a pattern I’d noticed from previous pages (particularly things-to-steal notes) and recent reading: I enjoyed reading about people who are who they are, know it, never doubt it, and aren’t punished for it. (For better or worse.)

On the first page, I simply stated that pattern. Then I jotted down characters/books that fit the pattern in various ways: The Addams Family, the Roses (Schitt’s Creek), the Barnabys (Midsomer Murders), Gilly (Adolphus Gillespie Vernon Ware — The Foundling), the Lampreys (Surfeit of Lampreys), the Lindsays (from a scene in Time Without Clocks). And then for each I made further notes about how that characteristic played out.

Chart of handwritten notes on characters who know who they are and what they want

Here were some interesting patterns in the examples that sprang to mind:

  • Often (particularly in the idiosyncratic groups) moneyed and or upper class backgrounds, even if one or both of those have been lost. Tied to that, a somewhat outgoing eccentricity.
  • They don’t attempt to alter others without provocation.
  • But if they are distinctive through their ordinariness, they are often thrust into paternal/patriarchal roles. (Related to point #1.)
  • Either a strong particular aesthetic, or rigorous avoidance of one.
  • They almost all occur in families — even Gilly’s striking out on his own is aided and abetted by a self-contained and stubborn relation. (See previous notes about favourite tropes in families.)

I then sorted the families into tables, noting the type of family, how others viewed them, and to what degree they were unified/members could leave.

Table of handwritten notes on characters who know who they are and what they want vs families in fiction
  • Tendency towards self-sufficiency. Others are admitted into the family circle only if they won’t alter its fabric.
  • If they aren’t masquerading as ordinary, they tend to be regarded by the broader community with cautious bewilderment or alarmed integration.
  • The family forms a centre point for activities. Individuals may have their own adventures, but there is a dense unity/gravity and it is difficult to separate from the family entirely.

A deeply traditional, moral core, with an unflappable certainty of their rightness. In ‘ordinary’ families, that results in quite paternal/care-taker roles, and newcomers/additions must be equally responsible, respectable and easy-going. In ‘unusual’ families, they form their own fiercely self-sufficient and independent group, and newcomers must generally conform by being equally eccentric (or exceptionally easy-going). Even if this isn’t presented as being an unalloyed good, the sheer robustness and self-sufficiency of the group becomes very appealing, their inviolability charming. There’s a strongly traditional and conservative pattern behind many of the families — see also notes on the appeal of The Navigable World.

It’s a striking contrast to more found/chosen family tropes, which seem to me to be be capable of being more disparately chaotic and democratic, with correspondingly different possibilities and risks, and where a central gravitational point is more likely to be a circumstance or personality than a Tradition.

(NB — my affection for this type of character/family is definitely related to liking characters who aren’t changed by a story.)

(AND ANOTHER THING — I need to revisit the original question, because there is a textural difference between the utterly self-confident person embedded in a family, and the one who is in isolation. A degree of defiance vs complacency, a different attitude/stakes to survival… And the role of the found/chosen family vs that.)

Album cover process: Ballads for Lovesick Bandits

Ballads for Lovesick Bandits — Foulweather Bluff — album with cream cover with dark brown lino cut of bandit on one knee holding up a wanted poster of a woman

Foulweather Bluff, who previously featured my mermaid-and-sailor linocut on their album Love Songs For Jilted Mermaids, commissioned a new image for their latest album: Ballads for Lovesick Bandits. The album is now available on most streaming sites, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music and YouTube. (And the art is available on Redbubble, should you desire e.g. a bandit shirt, case, or set of coasters.)

Here are the early sketches.

Two sketches: kneeling bandit holding bullet-pocked tombstone, and bandit leaning against his horse reading a letter

We went with A, with a wanted poster swapped in for the tombstone (although I still love that idea).

Two sketches of bandit holding wanted poster, one with a woman with a bandit-style eye mask, one without.

I traced that down onto the carving block — or tried to. This particular surface did not want to take any sort of transfer, and also had a lot more spring than the block I used for the (much smaller!) mermaid. It was a struggle, but an invigorating one.

Close up of lino, sketch and blue printing

I made quite a few little prints, adjusting and correcting, and then getting a few that were clean enough to scan in.

Several prints of the bandit in blue

After I scanned it in, I vectorised the image so it would scale cleanly, tidied up a few areas, and worked out a couple different treatments of the ink and paper texture. In C, for example, there’s a lot of variation in the depth of blue.

We went with the simple single texture in H — reminiscent of a rough woodblock effect (and also slightly tilted the eyes on the poster to be closer to the interim sketch).

The album is delightful — clear, sweet, mellow and moody. Check it out on various streaming sites (including Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music and YouTube).

And the image is also available on Redbubble on shirts, cases, coasters, scarves, etc, for all your banditry needs.

Fairy-tale colouring book — 2022 art

A Year in Fairy Tales

The 2022 fairy-tale calendar line art is now available to buy as a PDF colouring book for $3 (or more if you like) from

Of course, you can also get the PDF and future calendar images (early and with bonus colourways) by supporting the project at

Low-res image of 12 fairytale calendar line art designs from the monthly calendar

Cover illustration: Laurie J Marks’ Dancing Jack

Close up of scratchboard dancing jack showing details of skull on arm, branches on doublet

Here is the scratchboard Dancing Jack I designed for Laurie J Marks’ classic fantasy of mysteries and magic, automata and riverboats, is out of print no longer!

Now back in print, from the acclaimed award-winning author. Memories of loss drive Ash of Ashland to take her dog and leave her farm, to seek out the fate of her brother’s children. But she is taken hostage on a renegade riverboat and is forced to travel against the current, toward the past, where a lost king, lost friendship, and lost power offer danger and hope for the plague-devastated land.

Dancing Jack is officially available on 18 March 2023, but you can pre-order it now via Kindle and Smashwords. It is such a beautiful, enchanted, flowing tale.

Laurie asked for the eponymous paper Dancing Jack — but the details were still to be worked out.

Hand holding folding sheet of sketches

As usual, I began by reading the book, sketching elements that appealed to me, seemed thematically central, suggested movement, and would suit both the shape I was working in (the Dancing Jack instead of the rectangle of a book cover, since the commission was for the figure himself).

Tiny sketches of dancing jack and possible details from the book

Here are some extremely tiny details — you can see them to the left of my thumb in the photo above.

TINY pencil sketches of birds, swords, moths...

Out of these, I refined the various districts of the body, the pose, and the balance of black and white (in pencil). I scanned those in and printed them in a few sizes, so I could pick the version that felt most sensibly sized for working on scratchboard.

Pencil sketches of a Dancing Jack in ascending sizes

I rubbed pencil on the back to transfer it down — you can see here that I taped the sketch to the top of the board so I could pencil it in sections without losing my place. This kept things cleaner, and avoided lines being rubbed away as I worked. Then I inked each section and scraped the design out, referring back to the sketch.

The board I used was Ampersand Claybord, and the pigmented inks were applied with a marker. (I do sometimes use pre-inked boards and/or brush ink, but this technique I learned from a workshop Nicholas Delort gave.)

Four pictures of Dancing Jack being traced onto board, inked and scratched out

I like those almost block-print style roughnesses and remnants around the edges, so I deliberately overink areas just to scratch them back.

And here is the final Dancing Jack, of death and roses, life and seasons, crowns and rivers.

Hand holding board with scratched black and white Dancing Jack illustration

You can preorder Dancing Jack now via Kindle and Smashwords.

And while you’re waiting, why not catch up on the Elemental Logic quartet, now all available from Small Beer Press (print and digital).

Fire Logic
Earth Logic
Water Logic
Air Logic

If you do get them in print, those designs interlock. (I posed about them here: Elemental Logics.)


February 2023 — round-up of posts

Sketch of five sisters of varying heights, in cloaks

Here is a quick master list of the February 2023 blog posts (not including Patreon posts).

Small fast digital sketches of multiple figures and costumes from Poker Face Season 1 Episode 4
Photo of swatches of fabric and wallpaper with carousel animals

Posts over on Patreon at various tiers included: a PDF book of last year’s TV sketches, sneak-peeks at a linocut project and a silhouette project in progress, the fully drawn (and therefore spoiler-free) first draft of a story coming out later this year, silhouette stationery borders, early access to the calendar, and additional colourways.

Screenshot of overlapping silhouettes — details unclear






March 2023 Calendar — lost in the trees

Pattern of overlapping trees or bushes with fairytale creatures in between — greens on a cream ground

These calendar pages are made possible by patrons, who get them a little bit early, along with alternative colourways, and other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art: It is also supported by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar:

Here is the March calendar! I’d been wanting to try a scalloped design. They are often waves or shells, but the sketches evolved into trees — an assortment of mythical folks lost in a forest…

Sketch of overlapping circles and rough images of fairytale creatures
the sketch

(or perhaps on a Scooby chase through the shrubbery).

Pattern of overlapping trees or bushes with fairytale creatures in between — pinks and browns on a maroon ground

Supporters on Patreon got a few extra colourways (in this post):

Cropped section of calendar showing four different colourways

And below (for personal use) are the printable versions — pre-coloured and to colour in yourself.

You can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early) at (starts at US$1/month) or tip the artist (me) a few dollars through Ko-Fi: Either is greatly appreciated! And of course many previous designs are available as prints etc on Redbubble and Spoonflower. Also, I have a very infrequent mailing list for occasional updates/major announcements: Mailing List Sign-Up

March 2023 calendar — Pattern of overlapping trees or bushes with fairytale creatures in between — greens on a cream ground
March 2023 calendar — Pattern of overlapping trees or bushes with fairytale creatures in between — pinks and browns on a maroon ground
March 2023 calendar — Pattern of overlapping trees or bushes with fairytale creatures in between — line art

February 2023 Short Story Reading Post

Photo of handwritten notes, extracted below.

This post is a roughly tidied version of my February 2023 tweets about short stories. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post (linking to where they are first mentioned).

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