August 2011


The Sheep-Dalek

This addition to the Dalek Game is for Dick King-Smith‘s classic The Sheep-Pig, which was filmed as Babe. It is not my favourite King-Smith (that would be Saddlebottom), but it is a very good book and I am fond of the movie – although I saw it at the satellite cinema in Roma, and about half an hour into the movie a very small country boy in the front row piped up with “Why don’t they just SHOOT the PIG?”

Yet the charm of King-Smith’s books is that they aren’t terribly sentimental. Characters win through but sometimes the harshness of life is just (as the singing mice would have it) “the way things are” – to be struggled against, but not wished away. And both the book and the movie – with eccentric, inventive Farmer Hoggett, and the country women’s association and the dog trials – are beautifully accurate to country life (and have some gorgeous casting!). For all the quirky picture-book quality, the movie world is very closely observed and possibly the most good-hearted representation of that world that I have seen. (The automatic gate! The ducks!)

In other news:  I am going to be scanning a new batch of Daleks soon. In the meantime I have been making paper dolls, reading Tintenherz, experimenting with corn-and-buckwheat bread and sweet-chilli con carne and downloading theodolites and decibel meters onto phones over lunch with engineers.

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Last night, under the influence of too little sleep, I decided it would be an excellent idea to draw a paper doll for Illustration Friday (my last one was the butterfly catcher). A Regency masquerade was the obvious choice, but my Regency imaginings are frequently coloured by fairytales, thanks to the Susanna Clarke’s and Neil Gaiman’s overlapping variations on the era (“The Duke of Wellington Misplaces his Horse” in Clarke’s Ladies of Grace Adieu takes place in the world of Gaiman’s Stardust, and Charles Vess illustrated both works).

Illustration Friday: Disguise

The images behind the figure are a page in Racinet’s Historical Encyclopaedia of Costumes. I drew the design in pen and ink (using the pencil sketch below to keep the parts aligned), then scanned it and added flat colours digitally before printing it and cutting it out with a craft knife, because it was late and my judgement was impaired. You can see from the sketch that at one point she was going to have a floral boa.

Paper dolls in progress

There are two design flaws, both of which would be easily fixed. The first is that the floor extends too far upwards. I did that to give support to both her hooves, but as a result the cape does not sit properly unless I cut right through down to the hem. The second is that when the hood is on there is a glimpse of empty space beneath her hair. That is what happens when one simply draws a paper doll without considering all the consequences, but it was my first cloak design so a useful lesson (dresses are much easier – they simply hang down in front).

Daleks can jump puddles

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Alan Marshall‘s autobiography, the Australian classic I Can Jump Puddles. I absorbed it at some point during my childhood (along with others such as Colin Thiele’s gorgeous Sun on the Stubble and A. B. Facey’s harrowing A Fortunate Life) and need to read it again – particularly now after a little more knowledge of the history of polio and its treatment from (among other things) the lives of family friends, a fascinating chapter in Le Fanu’s Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine and of course (since everything comes back to Australian aviators!) the Flying Nurse, by and about Robin Miller.

This has been your Australian literature update for the week. Please, carry on.

 

Illustration Friday - Influence

A process sketch, since events won’t let me get to my computer.

When I was little, we lived on a cattle property and learned to swim in the dam (this is why I can’t dive). To keep us safe, or because fathers like to mess with their children’s minds, my father told my little sister and I that bunyips lived in the dams – they liked eating children’s toes, but were afraid of adults, so it was safe to swim as long as our parents were keeping an eye on us, but if we wandered into the dam unsupervised WE WOULD BE EATEN. Also, there was a mystery behind the main dam which had filled, emptied and filled again in two days when it was first dug, and no-one had ever touched the bottom.

This was extraordinarily effective and I still won’t go swimming alone, and am alarmed at the thought of going into water through which I can’t see.

Around the Dalek in 80 Days

This is for Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days in which THEY DO NOT TRAVEL BY BALLOON. That aside, I loved the book growing up, and though I know the twist with the timing at the end it still gets me every time.

In other news: The Ekka has come and gone, but I have put up my sketches from it, including a page of ducks. I have caught up on scanning older sketchbook pages so I will post them in the intervals between Daleks. I am reading Tintenherz (Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, in German) and enjoying it immensely but have to read it one.word.at.a.time and can’t speed through the exciting parts, which makes it very frustrating at points. My mother is reading my English copy to my father, and says it is a beautiful book to read aloud.

On Wednesday, People’s Day, I went to the Ekka armed with my sketchbook and the intention of eating all the wonderful/awful things. It was a very satisfactory day.

Note: You can see larger versions of these sketches by clicking on them to go through to their Flickr page.

Here are people at the train station, and one of my favourite events to sketch: the woodchop. It is a very fast competition, which turns sketching into a race. This year there was a bonus Lord Mayor.

Page 15

I wandered through the cattle pavilions making myself homesick, but I can rarely find anywhere good to sketch there – they are very popular, and because the exhibitors camp out there as well, it feels like walking into someone’s living room and drawing them. If people kept cows in their living rooms.

I like sitting in the stands watching the working dog trials as well, although the dogs are so tiny and far away. The crowd gets incredibly tense – and on the right, below, are some of the beautiful adoption greyhounds. Every year I almost convince myself I need a dog.

Page 16

But who could choose just one? The giant Schnauzers and the Belgian shepherds were the prettiest to draw, but that’s a tough call. In the blacksmith’s and farrier’s tent it smelled like burning hair, and was full of enormous hairy cart horses, and lounging men wearing leather aprons.

Page 17

Ducks!

Page 18Then I met up with K and C and rode the CarnEvil ride, and walked back into the valley to sketch with Shayna at Kerbside, and had a very satisfactory view of the fireworks from the footpath.

There was some discussion on Twitter a few weeks ago and an… arrangement was entered into between Tansy Rayner Roberts and myself. The discussion touched on the feasibility of a Flapper Dalek as part of the Dalek Game, and I fulfilled my half of the bargain as follows:

Roxie Dalek

This is for Roxie Hart, one of the movies made of the play which is best known as Chicago.

However, the idea was then broached (possibly by me) of a fashion plate version.

'20s Dalek

And here is a colour version – just because.

High Fashion Daleks

I’ve called it ’20s Dalek for Sophie Kinsella’s ’20s Girl because it was the only title I could think of which would let me draw the picture I wanted, which is why I do not recommend playing this game backwards.

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