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

Wordplay Annual Qld Schools Microfiction Writing Competition

Cut paper silhouette swirl with fish, birds, person with paper planes

The Brisbane Writers Festival and the University of Queensland present the annual schools’ microfiction competition, open to Queensland-based schools students. The 2022 prompt is this illustration by me!

Students are invited to respond to the image in no more than 120 words, using any written format (verse/ prose). Shortlisted entrants will be invited to present a reading of their microfiction at the awards ceremony during the Festival.

The winner will receive a cash prize of $1000 thanks to UQ, and a book pack featuring every Word Play 2022 title for their school. 

The award information is on the BWF website here:

And the entry form is here:

(I’ll post some more about the process, in the future.)

2021 Art — an incomplete survey

An illustration from one of the illustrated stories for certain supporters on

This post is a non-exhaustive round-up of this year’s art — projects published, projects completed, things I can’t show or can only discuss indirectly, and so on. Images link to posts, where they exist. (For writing, see 2021 Writing Update.)

It’s quite long, because of the images, so if you’re reading on the blog, the rest is below this cut:

Continue reading

More TV sketching: Murder, She Wrote

A few more TV sketches! These are from Murder, She Wrote — Season 1 Episodes 3 (“Deadly Lady”), 4 (“Birds of a Feather”) and 5 (“Hooray for Murder”).

Drawn on the iPad using Procreate, and as usual the rule is I can’t pause the show.


  • Jessica Fletcher is tricky to draw at speed. It would be useful to draw her for a while from stills until I work out a visual shorthand.
  • Concentrating on one element (e.g., hair or mouths) is rewarding and simplifies choosing what to concentrate on.

TV Sketching — Murder, She Wrote

More TV sketching! As ever, the rule is I can’t pause the show while drawing.

These are for “The Murder of Sherlock Holmes”, the first two episodes of Murder, She Wrote, which is FINALLY available to watch online. The first season at least. (9Now, if you’re in Australia.)

It has a lot more fast closeups on faces — particularly Jessica Fletcher’s — than some of the other shows I’ve sketched, and I don’t have a shorthand for her yet. This is no speed at which to try likenesses!

Fancy-dress parties are THE BEST to sketch, in life or TV. Costumes are a brilliant stand-in for character likenesses or other physical accuracy (as for any sketches of Sebastian from Shakespeare & Hathaway).

Tricky perspective angles, e.g. looking at a walkway from below, are also a challenge at speed. It’s easy to rely on what I “know” (mostly eye-level) vs what I’m actually seeing.

So many trenchcoats. Also, every time I concentrate on strong lighting in a scene, I’m pleased with the result — torchlight here at lower right, or from previous Midsomer Murders the blue light from a phone and light through a chapel door.

TV sketching: Shakespeare & Hathaway

My housemate and I decided it was time for a rewatch of Shakespeare & Hathaway — Private Investigators, so I have been sketching.

As usual with tv sketching, the rule is that I can’t pause the show. These are done on the iPad, in Procreate (with a “ballpoint pen” brush, if that is relevant to your interests).

It’s a show that’s heavy on character actors, but it tends to lean more on faces than Midsomer Murders does (a lot of longer shots in Midsomer). This makes it trickier to catch at-speed.

S1E1: “O Brave New World”

Luella Shakespeare (Jo Joyner) has a lovely signature pink, which is such fun, especially since I don’t gravitate to it in drawings as a matter of course.

S1E1: “O Brave New World”

Sebastian “I was just tuning my lute” Brudenell (Patrick Walshe McBride) has a wonderful face and is almost always in disguise.

S1E1: “O Brave New World”

I do enjoy drawing crime scene investigators in full PPE on British shows.

S1E2: “The Chimes at Midnight”

This does not look like a sketch of Timothy West, but at least I can tell which sketch was meant to be him.

S1E2: “The Chimes at Midnight”

The buildings are so gorgeous and the camera rarely lingers!

S1E3: “This Promised End”

Trying to capture both the immense fun Elizabeth Berrington was apparently having AND the swoop in Frank Hathaway (Mark Benton)’s hair in the first seasons.

S1E3: “This Promised End”

Also quick-drawing a funeral cortege.

Mother Thorn Process Post

The art for Juliet Marillier‘s enchanting collection Mother Thorn has been shortlisted for a Ditmar! This post is about the cover art process, but I will show more of the internals in a future post (now up: Mother Thorn — internal illustrations and An Interview with Juliet Marillier).

The book is available from Serenity Press:

I’d known of Juliet, and loved her historical fantasies and her enchanting fairy-tale novels, for a long time before I met her at the very first Aurealis Awards I attended (when they were still hosted in Brisbane). We were both at the back of the room being quiet, because I was very shy and she’d just got off a long flight. She’s a delightful author and person, and so I was utterly delighted to have this (first!) opportunity I had to work with her on a project.

The first step was, as usual, to read through Juliet’s manuscript and sketch possible images for the four stories — moments, poses, incidental creatures. This serves as reference for the cover and internal sketches.

Based on those thinking-sketches, I proposed a few cover treatments. We were always talking in terms of silhouettes, but I included some alternative line-and-wash options. At this point we hadn’t definitely decided on what the internals would look like, so it was possible that a drawn cover might be more suitable.

After discussions with Juliet and Serenity, we were pretty sure we were going with either A or D — or maybe both, for different editions. Or possibly one for a title page.

We were hoping to use foil on the cover, in some way (in the end, it’s on the special edition hardback). I’ve posted before about working through different ways to play with the foil for this cover: 20 Ways With Gold Foil.

Double spread from observation journal. On the left, five things seen/heard/done and a picture of a painting leaning up against a fence. On the right, a list of 20 ways with foil treatments, with accompanying drawings of a silhouette dog.
I’ve typed up the list over on the previous post: 20 Ways With Gold Foil

I then cut out a test silhouette so that we could compare approaches to colour (this design also turned into printable stationery for patrons).

I also did some test treatments with the sketch for cover D (this silhouette ended up as a title page).

Here are some more test patches, to see how I wanted to approach certain leaves.

At about this point, I refined Sketch A into these almost-final pencils, ready to be approved and adjusted.

Then I flipped the design, traced it down with white graphite paper, and started cutting it out.

Bonus process shots of cover B, including silhouette lettering.

Next came the really fiddly bit. I scanned in the art, then selected the main colour areas. I had to make sure they overlapped, and put them on separate layers (top left). Then I vectorised each layer (in Inkscape) for a clean strong edge, and stacked the layers again in Photoshop (top right).

This made it easy to select each layer, adjust the colour, and then add shading, texture and detail digitally without interfering with the other areas.

Here is a comparison of the raw scanned silhouette (left) and the colour version (right). The yellow box at the bottom right appears on every layer, and let me quickly line the layers up. I deleted them later.

In the end, we used yellow on the coloured cover, instead of foil, and printed the whole silhouette in foil for the special edition.

More on the internal illustrations soon (Edit: now posted — internal illustrations), but in the meantime, the book is available from Serenity Press:

Edit: For more about this book and the internal illustrations, see Mother Thorn — internal illustrations and An Interview with Juliet Marillier.

Note: If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, I have a Patreon account ( and patrons there get behind-the-scenes process and sneak-peeks, starting from US$1, or you could buy me a (virtual) coffee at (and I get through quite a bit of coffee).And/or check out prints and products available at Redbubble and Spoonflower.

Mystery 101 sketches

Here is some more TV sketching — the first episode of Mystery 101 this time. The usual TV sketching rule applied: no pausing the show while drawing.

I like the middle right (black jacket) pose, and the jaw on the guy with the satchel.

American hair, great coats.

I like the way the two bottom right poses turned out, and the light on the bottom right face. I’m not sure how much was intentional, but it looks effective.

I am hoping to get back to some Midsomer Murders, but my housemate and I have to work out which seasons we’ve seen least recently. I would sketch other shows, but we’ve but watching creepier ones and I need to keep my eyes on the screen.

Previous TV sketching:

More Midsomer sketching

Here are a few more Midsomer Murders sketches (season 22 episode 4). As ever, the rule is that I can’t pause the show.

Previously on Midsomer Sketching:

Midsomer Sketching

More Midsomer Murders sketches! These are from episodes 1, 2 and 3 of Season 22.

I’m really enjoying these speed-sketches. I started them mostly to get/keep in practice using the Procreate app (I’m sticking with a traditional media base for my art, but there’s always some digital editing). TV sketching, however, does require faster reflexes than actual cafe sketching, because while the models viewed from a cafe do walk out of view, the scene is rarely actually cut mid-stride, and there’s no fancy camera work. On a show, however, the views and clothing are more varied, and occasionally the camera angle and lighting are dramatic. Also, it’s cool to look back at a few pages from a single episode and see if there are patterns or colour themes.

(And of course it remains a useful way to draw when excursions are limited.)

The rule continues to be that I am not allowed to pause the show while sketching.

Previously on Midsomer Sketching: