Moleskine exchange: Portrait of Robin

Moly_X: Robin's moly

This is my latest portrait for the Portrait Party Moleskine Exchange: . Robin, on the right, is the owner of this sketchbook. The little birds came about because of the paint spots Jan (previous artist) left for me to work with. The dress is new.

In other news, NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I am looking forward to it, and trying not to resent it a little because I was just getting back into the short story swing. I submitted 2 tonight: M (epistolary Australian vampire/thumbelina fable, although one of the very kind people who critiqued it at the last minute said it reminded her more of the Gingerbread Man) for an anthology, and that Australian Scarlet Letter/Cinderella/St George story E&tF which I hope finds a home, poor thing.

Portrait of Rita

Earlier this year, Rita de Heer asked me to draw a portrait of her, based on reference photographs, which she could use in a range of sizes and formats. After discussing the details, she sent through the photos and I prepared a number of very quick digital thumbnails sketches.

Portrait of Rita - in progress

Rita liked the black and white, but wanted images to reflect her land care activities. I did a pencil sketch and drew the portrait (above right) with a dip pen and ink. Unfortunately, the flowers at the left were easily confused with a noxious weed, so I picked a grevillea flower in the station carpark, drew that and then replaced it digitally. I also moved the butterflies around and added the black background. This let me rearrange the elements to suit a range of sizes, and the butterflies and frog (I am very fond of the frog) were suitable as thumbnail images.

Here is the final portrait at its full dimensions:

Portrait of Rita

I enjoyed this project, and it was an opportunity to try out several approaches I’ve been wanting to use. The scattering of flowers and butterflies is loosely inspired by a vase my mother has, and the linework with black background is a style I admire for portraiture.

Illustration Friday: Racing

Illustration Friday: Racing

I’m still recovering from running through the city sketching zombies, so here is a digital sketch – it’s in a style I like but haven’t quite defined yet.

In other news, the straggly vines by the front gate have come out all over in star jasmine and are climbing the fence. I am trying to read Tom Clancy in German. One of the jobs on my illustration wishlist just came true. The Hidden Persuaders just used the line “the mango of the spirit world”. I am planning to do NaNoWriMo and bring the Robin Hood-esque tale of the last two years to a conclusion, and Brisbane is full of jacaranda flowers.

How to sketch a zombie apocalypse

The first thing to note is that the living dead move more quickly than one might expect. Use equipment that is light, quick and accessible – I found my usual small sketchbook and art pens (markers) ideal. They also attract less attention than a camera.

Some zombies use rudimentary forms of transport – skateboards, rollerblades and rollerskates all appeared. Those in wheelchairs, however, seemed to find it easier to negotiate the crowds at the beginning of the walk. Also, several thousand zombies walking from the top of Albert Street to Fortitude Valley delay traffic.

Roller Ghouls

It therefore follows that the best sketching opportunities will be when the zombies are generally milling around, engaged in anointing each other with blood and flour.

Yellow dress

There are several varieties of zombie: the zombie bride, the Na’vi and the zombie Wallys/Waldos were particularly in evidence. There were also spidermen, nurse, hockey, storm trooper and steampunk zombies, goth zombies, baby zombies, Disney zombies and endless permutations and cross-pollinations. There is only one ‘wrong’ sort of zombie, and that is the sexy zombie.

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Some are quite laid-back.

Tourist Zombie

Zombies do try to organise, but are thwarted by their narrow perspective. Cries of “What do we want? Brains! When do we want it? Brains!” disturbed a wedding (the guests came out to take photos) but did not establish a timeline within which their demands were to be met.

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The zombies will eventually be on the move, down streets lined with brave photographers, astonished shoppers and nervous shopkeepers. This will test documentary sketching skills. I would stop, sketch, and run on to avoid falling too far behind. The reactions are as much fun to watch as the horde:

Bemused Patrons

There are more sketching opportunities at the end, when zombies sit on stairs and rooftops to relax, and climb trees, and go for burgers. If they have grown used to an artist, they may temporarily adopt it into their horde at this time.

Pumpkin Girl

Illustration Friday: Spooky (and some poetry, also spooky but in a different way)

Illustration Friday: Spooky

A late night, too many complicated ideas and a desire to keep my hand in at vector drawing in Inkscape leads to another mock book cover.

In other news I’ve been reading Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, which won’t make you a good poet but will make you an extremely happy one. I have been sitting in cafes composing roundelays and sestinas on my lunch breaks, with such immortal lines as:

I met a straggler in an antique van
Who said, a vast and wheel-less wreck lies prone…


Cry Crivens! and unleash the snails of war!


This is not
cleanly, your mind is stuffed
of bugs and germs.

(the exercises are brilliant) and:

Human invention gives, blind nature takes
Umbrage and rages down a rant of rain –
The bloody umbrella always goes and breaks.

Here is the last verse of today’s effort:

Edward Street Triolet

Ocker-accented bright crows,
Coffee cups and glittering street –
I’d show you where the jasmine grows
And ocker-accented bright crows
Heckle, and ibises eat
From rubbish bins. All would be sweet:
The ocker-accented bright crows,
And coffee cups, and glittering street.



Illustration Friday: Transportation

Illustration Friday: Transportation

So I was at a conference on Saturday. I was listening, but as I don’t knit whenever possible, I drew to keep that part of my mind from distracting the rest of it. Above is a time machine, drawn with black biro and coloured digitally. My older sister made one of these for me when I was growing up.

Illustration Friday: Transportation

The horse (above) is a flight of fancy, but did anyone else make offensive weapons with fastfood wrappers growing up (when they still had styrofoam burger containers)?

Tank and Dalek

Below are two of the raw, unedited sketch pages. Some of these toys I had – my father made us a covered wagon out of wood (I think they were dividers from ammunition boxes), dowel and leather.

Conference sketches 1

The second page gets progressively warlike (suggesting that we were being shown statistics).

Conference sketches 2

In life news, because my mother says I should talk more about myself on the internet, there is currently nothing I can say anything about, either because it isn’t just my business or because it is work-related. But there might possibly be by the end of the month, if events this morning had the desired effect. Oh, I have new summer dresses – that’s news. I see my nephews once a year and they’ve started recognising my outfits. And it has been raining. A lot.

Kinds of Blue

I think this is the last of my recent projects to be completed. Not the last to be posted, but I may have managed to clear the decks in time for November. This project was the artwork for two comics in Kinds of Blue, an anthology of 14 short (5 page) comics on the theme of depression. It was originated by friends in Sydney and is currently looking for a home, but all the art is now finished!

Nihilo - skyscrapers

This view from a city street is one of my favourite images from “Nihilo” – a very powerful piece and therefore not one I would recommend reading as many times as I did while doing (and fixing and changing) the art and lettering for it. I came late to “Nihilo” and the idea for the treatment came with the script. It was to be heavily based on altered photos. In the end, I drew it all in a Vector program (a fiddly and frustrating experience, but light on computer memory and I learned a great deal). Some panels were freehand, some loosely based on supplied photo reference.

Nihilo - textured rough

This is a preliminary rough, with texture added because the style reminded me of stencil graffiti. The final art kept the same style but smooth and untextured. I still like this piece.

The other, and first, comic in this anthology for which I drew was “Knitting Therapy” – about knitting as a means of coping with depression:

Knitting Therapy - order

I drew this one with blue pencil, then scanned and cleaned up the line work and added colour and texture digitally. It made HUGE files. For comparison, all the artwork for “Nihilo” exists in a single 1.53MB SVG file (it was easier to make changes and colours consistent across pages that way).  A single page of “Knitting Therapy”, with all its layers flattened, is a 41MB PSD file (apples and oranges, I know, but it nearly did my computer in).

I will put up more details as they become available.