Dancing, and ducks: Sketchbook update


I frequently post pictures of my sketchbooks-in-progress on Facebook, Twitter etc, but hadn’t realised how long it has been since I uploaded the scanned pages! The sketchbooks themselves were taking longer to complete, as well, since if I wasn’t in the office I was working on commissions. But I’m catching up now!


Here’s a taste, with some dancers from late 2014.

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(Clicking on the photos of the full pages will take you to the Flickr page, which should let you see a larger version).

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Ducks are always rewarding.

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Ekka 2011

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Illustration Friday: Imperfect

Illustration Friday: Imperfect

This Illustration Friday contribution is a sketch inspired by a character from Catherynne M. Valente’s wonderful Orphan Tales duology – the captain (and only seemingly ‘perfect’ member) of a crew of strange and wonderful pirates. It is in pen and ink, with colour and texture added digitally. I’d like to reread the books and do another version of this character – more mysterious and velvety and deadly. I’ve given her a rather standard picture-book pirate outfit here.

I highly recommend the books – beautiful, nested, recursive, reminiscent original tales of bird-people, star-horses, smoke-creatures, bone-coins, wind-cities… like all your fairytales come at once, but better and slightly singed and smelling of spice.

And here is also the new header for August, in honour of the Ekka, which begins this week. I don’t know if I will make it there this year – my cost-effective ticket source has left town, and some of my favourite things have been changed or closed and so I am afraid it will hurt twice. One day I will learn not to get attached to traditions. But I do love the chair-swing ride (though they won’t actually let me take my sketchbook on):

August header

In other news, yesterday I bought a proper, vintage, crank-handle pencil sharpener (red) and two model WWII aeroplanes, which are staging miniature dogfights on the kitchen table. They are eventually to serve as models for steampunk illustrations (I swear!) but so far have only had supporting roles in sketches in the margins of translations.

Ekka 2010

Sooner than never! These are my sketches from the Ekka – I went twice but will upload the surrounding pages in the fullness of time.

This is the first day (after the carwash): mead and chickens, spinning and the woodchop. I really like sketching the woodchop, but it is a race to capture movement when the axeman is climbing up and chopping down a pole in a few minutes flat. I went with Deb, whom you can see below contemplating a clown.

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Here is a close-up: 2.5×1.5cm:

Orpington - close-up of Page 03

The second day I went alone, and found that sketching parades around a ring has its own trials, mostly to do with foreshortening. The vintage speedcars were (if you can read my writing) “quite thrilling!”.

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Here is a Man with some Flags: 2cmx2cm

Man with flag - close-up of Page 05

I could have sketched the judges at the dog show indefinitely – all hats and shawls and opinions on specialty Dachshund judging  and the politics thereof. On the way home, a disproportionate number of train passengers were clutching oversized stuffed creatures. and on the right we return to your regularly scheduled ANZAC Square viewing. Of the cameos, top right and bottom left are definitely regulars.

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Close-up of the band (playing, at this point, ‘all shook up!’). 3.5cmx3cm

Band - close-up of Page 06

And a lady in purple at the dog show: 2cmx4cm

Purple lady - close-up of Page 06


I ate, of course, far too much – Dagwood Dogs which should only be eaten at the Ekka and probably not even then, strawberries & cream, bratwurst and other good things, washed down with tea brewed far too long in an enamel kettle from the CWA stand. I sat in the sun and rode the ferris wheel with Deb and the chair swing by myself and listened to music and fought through crowds and looked at cattle ruminating quietly and generally had a wonderful time.

Ekka Sketches

The Ekka is the Queensland Exhibition – the state show, culmination of all the local shows. Cattle and horses and parades and pavilions, dagwood dogs, fairy floss, strawberries and cream, rides (I went the swinging chairs, which was fun but a bit lonely). My favourite parts are the cattle pavilion, which is always sweet-smelling and somnolent, and the dog trials, and the food.

As no-one wanted to come along with me (even though I had a spare pass), I took my sketchbook and managed to get a little drawing in. Maybe more next year. You can see larger versions of these by clicking on a picture to go to its Flickr page, and then clicking on “all sizes” above the picture.

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I started sketching at the woodcut arena (right-hand page above). It was a windy day (the Ekka Winds come every August), so between the sawdust blowing in my eyes and the fact that in the speed chainsaw event the men split a log into seven posts in about a minute, I’m surprised I caught as much as I did.

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Top left: There is always lots of free food in the Woolworths pavilion – exotic dips and spreads, olives, cordials, dessert wines, yoghurts and fudge – but most of it tastes so good I end up paying and taking it home. In the handcrafts pavilion (bottom left) there was a demonstration of cake decorating, with a mirror above the presenter so you could see what her hands were doing. The dog show (right) is a lot of fun. I would have liked to have spent more time there in a better seat – the dachshunds were hard to see.

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The horses (bottom left) were far enough away that the horses were about the same size as the dachshunds, but it spared me having to capture too much detail. Middle left: there are always fabulous wigs from show bags (also, chocolate). Bottom right is a large and faintly iridiscent plush kangaroo that regarded me unblinkingly from over a seat in the train on the way home.

The gold ink and red bleed-through on the right-hand page are from using the last page of my sketchbook for tests when buying pens – which is an indication that I’ve finally finished scanning this sketchbook in. It’s all up at Flickr here: Sketchbook 05/08 – 08/08.

August Short Reviews of everything except books, plus bonus rant about Taken

September Blog Header

Yes, there is a new blog header. If you’re trying to work out the cryptic meaning, you should know it is a bit of scratchboard I was practising on. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a cryptic meaning (if you really want there to be). On to the main event:

Faithful Writer Conference: The second Faithful Writer conference, held at New College in Sydney, emphasised the “writing” more than the “faithful” this year – based on what I attended, it was a writing conference attended mostly by Christians, rather than a conference about Christian writing, which provided a contrast to last year and I hope they continue to mix it up in future. Mark Treddinick, the keynote speaker, was not a Christian but is a well-known writer, which created an interesting tension between his expertise and the audience’s lack of it, and vice versa. As a literary author, his emphasis was on the writing over the content: “the sentence is the thing”. Coming from a genre background, I am not used to this emphasis on writing over story – quite the opposite! Many of the guidelines, however, are the same. After lunch we broke into workshops. I went to Tony Payne’s “The Art of the Essay”. When he asked why we were there, I said I had spent too long in uni and was there to have my faith in essays as a worthwhile form restored, which he did. Also, we got to read Chesterton and Orwell, and that usually makes a good day even better. And I got to make new friends and catch up with old and eat doughnuts and drink strange drinks at dinner, so I am looking forward to next year. Karen and Rebecca did an excellent job of organising it and Karen very kindly put me up and fed me and took me to book-buying locations.

The Dark Knight: I reviewed this last month. And while I enjoyed it a second time (and parts of it held up *better*), I enjoyed the ‘Half-Pipe’ cinema at Mt Druitt even more. Big soft beanbags, very late at night after the conference, very hard to keep my eyes open.

Hellboy II: I had preview tickets to this and after some frantic calling around (I hate to see good tickets go to waste) Karissa came along. I enjoyed it much more than the first. Partly, I am certain, because of the big screen, but mostly because of del Toro. I’ve been muttering about how del Toro should make Neverwhere, but after seeing the Goblin Market in Hellboy II, I think he already has. So see it just for del Toro’s weirdly beautiful fantasies. And, you know, the rest of it wasn’t bad.

Persepolis: I saw this at the Brisbane Internation Film Festival with Kashelle and Aimee. I loved the book, and this was an excellent adaptation. Still episodic, but with changes as necessary, new scenes, missing scenes (I wish they could have put the footnotes in!). The art and animation were effortlessly true to the style and feeling of the book. See it if you can find it!

Ekka: No takers for my spare ticket! That is always a sad thing, and it feels a little odd to go to the Ekka alone. But it was a pleasant day, not too cold or too warm, and there were many things to eat (strawberries and cream, dagwood dogs, a neenish tart from the CWA stand) and stare at (wigs and cattle and utes and dogs and the very… forthright views of the judges of the contemporary art category) and draw (speed chainsaw contestants don’t hold poses very long) and buy (exotic chutney for my parents and a show bag for Deb).

Taken: The nice review is that it was a pretty good standard action movie, not too choppy in the filming or gory in the action. I will put the scathing review of the characterisation below, as it is quite long.

Bank Job: There are many movies I wish didn’t have sex scenes for my sake. This movie would have actually been improved by taking them out. Once it got them out of its system, it was a good, relentless, twisted, Brit/caper/crime story with a low-budget feel (I kept expecting Australian accents), one or two excellent performances, incompetent criminals you want to succeed mostly because everyone else out to get them is worse, and the bonus of being based on (inspired by) real events, which always makes slightly unbelievable storylines more enjoyable. I’m not looking at the characterisation in this one, because it didn’t creep me out quite as much as Taken.

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