City Symphony — two days remaining

City Symphony

The official run of City Symphony, a location-based audio experience of Brisbane City, is just about to end.

It includes (among many other works of music and writing) my piece, “Twelve Observations Along George Street”, read by some very cool people.

It is a multilayered place-specific experience of music and words and includes (among many other works) my piece, “Twelve Observations Along George Street”.

Now that I’m back in the country, I’m hoping to go in and hear it this weekend, a sort of poem-as-tour-guide, played at the places where it was written.

The whipstrike of jasmine stitched on a chain link net,
And a hole in the wire where a tree might crawl through,
Where a shoal might slip through.
Look back, turn back! You are watched
By stone cats and curled finials,
Which guard against wildness…

(You can see another extract at my previous post.)

Observation Journal: Distilling thoughts and readings

The observation journal has been wonderful for developing ideas, pursuing fascinations, and creating projects and exercises.

Occasionally, however, I simply use it to gather loosely-related thoughts (e.g. five thoughts on surface design), to comb through for patterns and lessons. Often these will turn into more detailed investigations or projects, raw material for exercises and workshops activities. But the first stage is just jotting them down, and then looking for patterns (although occasionally loose thoughts turn into a written piece on their own).

If you’re keeping a similar notebook, this can be a quick way to review what you’ve been thinking about recently, and to find ideas and lessons to pursue and examine.

Here are two examples (there will be more in the future).

1. Tracing a suspected pattern

I’d noticed a pattern in my reading (and in my concerns about my own work). This page was a quick exercise in pinning that down, and tracing some of the implications. It’s a similar process to tracing a fascination (e.g. Little Groves), but more nebulous.

Handwritten notes on patterns in recent reading.

The recurring pattern was structure as a trap vs structure as freedom. It united topics from discussions in an architecture reading group to thoughts on narrative theories, analyses of clothes in books (on the Clothes in Books blog), silhouettes and my attempts to work through story structure, Xanadu (the movie) and several murder mysteries. The most common theme within this was a sense of tricks and traps, and the mechanisms that can provide (or require you to avoid).

Many of these thoughts very much escaped into my “What I’m Reading” article for Meanjin, on “The Romance and Horror of the Navigable World“.

2. Looking for a pattern

On the second page, I went looking for a pattern, collecting advice that kept recurring across a great deal of reading (and many conversations, and some reluctant self-reflection), and then distilling it further.

Handwritten notes on patterns in recent reading.

The main overall lesson and reminder was that, whatever it takes to get the work done, to be deliberate about it.

Ballpoint sketch of a beagle asleep on a cushion

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Endpapers in Flight Magazine

This mail arrived just before I flew overseas — it’s my endpapers in Flight magazine, a quarterly illustration and story magazine for kids, from Paper Bird Childrens Books and Art.

The endpaper pattern began life as a calendar illustration, and you can find it on Redbubble on various prints, cases, clothes, etc (this version and the more Gothic blue hands version). The blue hands version is also up on Spoonflower as fabric and wallpaper.

Anyway, Flight is a beautiful little magazine, very full of images and stories — I highly recommend checking it out.

Here’s how my illustrator copies arrived — shown alongside the rest of that day’s book mail.

Observation Journal: Time & self-management aka immoveable moods, moveable objects

Or: a not terribly flattering portrait of the artist.

Every so often I attempt to use the observation journal to optimise my time management (ugh — and perilously close to being introspective). It’s useful because the journal structure contains that urge and keeps the results in one place, so that I can look back and see what has changed (very little) and what approach actually works for me (one thing), and how much enjoyment analysing it brings me (moderate to minimal).

Executive summary: The one lesson that has consistently been helpful is knowing I am that way.

Effective workarounds vary from day to day, some tips and tricks and epiphanies break through for a while. What remains useful is being able to accept that I will react a certain way, and then attempting to remember to account for that (or at least not blaming myself too bitterly when myself happens).

I still wanted to share these pages, because I find it useful to look at the structures around creative work occasionally (if only to remind myself not to spend too much time on it) and because the exercises were useful — just not always in the way I’d expected. (The deviations were, however, consistent.)

Side notes:

  • These approaches have created more grand practical solutions (vs calm acceptance) when I’ve applied them to physical workspaces. See: Space and time and more epiphanies.
  • If you’re into productivity and time management books, you might spot some oblique references to techniques from Dan Charnas’ Work CleanPeter M Ball recommended that to me, and it was very useful for working out how to do the bare minimum to keep on top of the worst of the admin. If you follow or support Peter (newsletter and Patreon links are on his page) he often has good tips and précis on similar books, and details on how he applies them to his own projects.
  • Distractions and interruptions
    • On the first of these pages, I made a list of distractions and interruptions to my work. I then noted how I tended to react, why I react that way, and whether there was an obvious solution.
    • Often there was an obvious solution that was not feasible (for reasons ranging from pandemic realities to the nature of deadlines). Accepting that helped me temper my reactions a little. Knowing my reactions made me better able to deal with them.
    • There were some interesting patterns — resentment tended to be directed at entirely innocent external parties and was due to me running late (sorry everyone); weariness attended large non-creative things I nevertheless wanted; anxiety came from competing equally-weighted commitments.
    • The obvious answer to all of this was to do work regularly early. Isn’t it always? The practical answer was to be aware of how I was about to act out, and rein myself in.
  • Things that work and why I don’t do them
    • The next week I jotted down a few things I know help me get work done. For each I noted why I suspected it worked, and why I don’t do them. (And, occasionally, a possible solution.)
    • I also made a little list of improbable ideals, which is always illuminating, if unflattering. Basically, mine boil down to having someone to whom to outsource most executive functions. (I do in fact know why I am this way.)
    • The most useful part of this exercise has not been these secondary solutions, although I do refer back to them. Rather, since I seem to be committed to a degree of emergency-as-lifestyle, it’s been useful having a conscious list of approaches that have worked, and which I can deploy in an emergency (even if I don’t like employing them consistently).
    • I’d like to revisit this list and look at the reasons behind the reasons I don’t do the “correct” things. I suspect that would be more illuminating, and suggest some… not workarounds, but ways to trick myself into doing decent work while thinking I am having a good time. I learned some very good lessons about this in the first semester of my MPhil, so it is possible.
  • Objections and intentions
    • The following week I tried to pre-empt my contrary nature again. I made a list of things I wanted to try (early rising, etc), my likely objections, and possible workarounds. I succeeded in achieving remarkably few of them.
    • This exercise make me more aware of some of my own arguments against myself. But it confirmed that, in general, the path of least resistance is (where possible) to reconfigure the physical world around my inclinations, rather than the other way around. (Immoveable objects are a matter for another day).


I haven’t written this up as a creative exercise because it isn’t about drawing or writing as such. But if you are interested in looking at your own work habits, these are some interesting questions to lean into. But I particularly recommend asking those further questions at the end: what did you notice not only through the exercise but about the exercise, and how it worked with or for or against you.

Anyway: back to the art and writing!

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BWF Author-Illustrator Episode

Screenshot of link to Author-Illustrator episode

Sarah Davis interviewed me for an episode of the Brisbane Writers Festival’s Author-Illustrator series. You can watch it through the BWF website, or on YouTube (below).

June 2022 — round-up of posts

One sketchbook page with children playing and adults gardening

Here is quick master list of the June 2022 blog posts (not including Patreon posts).

Tiny ballpoint drawing of a shed labelled "surprise: secret door" then (inside) "horror: skeletons", then "suspicion: cemetery-like garden beds"

The starred posts have art and writing exercises (tags: writing exerciseart exercise), but most of the observation journal posts can generally be adapted for those purposes too.

Photo of me sitting on the grass at Hay Tor, sketching
Photo by Kim Wilkins

Posts over on Patreon at various tiers included: sketches for projects I’m still just scheming about, printable stickers/labels to accompany gifts to departing guests, travel and writing updates, two illustrated stories for those who get stories (catching up after being unwell) and early access to the calendar.

Screenshot of flat colours in circles, without lines — hint of hood and person carrying bag on stick over shoulder

July 2022 calendar — Hind Girls

Girls with antlers, flowers and knives frolic on a green ground

This calendar is made possible by patrons, who get it 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 sequel to the June calendar — antlered hind girls, who appear from time to time in the world of Angela Slatter’s enchanting Sourdough books (these include the collections Sourdough, The Bitterwood Bible, The Tallow-Wife, and the novels All the Murmuring Bones and The Path of Thorns). The hind girls are perhaps not quite as gentle as June’s wolf boys.

Below (for personal use) are the printable versions — two pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself. If you like them and/or like supporting artists, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early) at (starts at US$1/month) or tip me a few dollars through Ko-Fi: Either is greatly appreciated!

Also, I’ve started a mailing list (not a newsletter), if you’d like to keep up with any major announcements: Mailing List Sign-Up

Girls with antlers, flowers and knives frolic on a green ground
Girls with antlers, flowers and knives frolic on a green ground
Line art: Girls with antlers, flowers and knives frolic

June 2022 short story reading thread

Photo of handwritten short story notes

This post is a roughly tidied version of my June 2022 tweets about short stories. It’s quite long, so I’m putting the rest of it below the cut. There’s a list of all stories at the very end of the post.

Continue reading

Quick update: travels!

Photo of me sitting on the grass at Hay Tor, sketching
Sketching on Hay Tor (photo by Kim Wilkins)

I’m in England(!) for a few weeks, so my presence online has been intermittent. I’m finally settled in Dartmoor for a little while, and hope to post a bit more regularly.

If you are also in England and I have not told you I’m here — surprise! The trip was organised a little hastily. I’m in Dartmoor without a car for the next two weeks, then heading to Glasgow for a week, for the University of Glasgow Once & Future Fantasies conference.

City Symphony — Hear the Hidden Sounds of Brisbane

City Symphony

City Symphony, a location-based audio experience of Brisbane City, is just about to begin!

It includes (among many other works of music and writing) my piece, “Twelve Observations Along George Street”, read by some very cool people…

Basically, from 24 June to 24 July 2022 (if you are in Brisbane) you will be able to wander the streets listening to a multilayered place-specific experience of music and words. Presumably, my portion of it will be situated more or less along George Street.

I wrote most of this while walking, jotting it down in the notes app, recording impressions and descriptions as I walked — rather different than a lot of my writing but similar to Travelogues: processing what I was seeing through words. When I got home, I tidied it up and found some through-lines and built it into a series of views.

Screenshot of scraps of description in the Notes app
some early notes, typed as I stood in each location

If you are in Brisbane in the next four weeks, I hope you can try out City Symphony — and I’d love to know what you think.

For now I’ll just tease the beginning (if you know Brisbane, you might guess the location):

Look out, look over
At the heddle-hipped warp and sway of it,
The cradle-sticked sashay of it.
Drop the egg of the sun in it…