Ducks in times that try the soul


A command performance of “your loopy handwriting, with your pens (yes, now, while I’m standing over you or would be if not for social distancing)”, for Alex Adsett, to accompany a previous duck.


The quote is from Dorothy Sayers’ wonderful Gaudy Night (a Peter Wimsey novel, but third in the Harriet Vane + Peter Wimsey novels which should be read as follows: Strong PoisonHave His CarcaseGaudy Night, and Busman’s Honeymoon, and are wonderful).

How fleeting are all human passions when compared with the massive continuity of ducks.

Swiss Army Spider


Further to yesterday’s post (The Key to All Mythologies), here’s a little example of a project that began to emerge when finding the common point between several objects (i.e. Things With Lots of Legs).


Illustration Friday: Up

Illustration Friday: Up

A little pencil foolishness, with colour added on the computer. There are some offset perspectives happening here but OH WELL, I like the little Gibson Harpy.

I have returned!


I am back, I am dealing with jet lag which I never adequately believed in before, the sketchbook is scanned and I will begin posting it shortly.

However, to begin with, many congratulations to all the nominees and winners of the World Fantasy Award, and of course particular to Vincent Chong, winner of the Artist category with his sepia-soaked, textured worlds, and to my fellow nominees Didier Graffet and Dave Senior, with their clean effective design, J.K. Potter‘s dark collections and Chris Roberts‘ bright nightmares.

Conflux 7 Sketches

Over the first weekend in October I went to Conflux 7 in Canberra. I had a wonderful time, talked to nearly everyone, went to book launches, drank coffee, was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers, banqueted like it was 1929 (I have no pictures of that, but there are quite a few around the traps), spent time with some of my favourite artists, writers and people, then spent several days afterwards simply recovering.

If I do a full con report, you won’t get any report at all, so here are the sketches (the cartoon ones are the sketches I draw and upload on Twitter and Facebook as I go). Clicking on pictures should give you an option to see them at a larger scale.

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Sketchbook update – Christmas

Since I’ve been working on specific projects, the current sketchbook hasn’t been filling as fast as usual. It is, however, still in use and I am uploading pictures every now and then. Here are the latest uploads:

I don’t know what the tree at top left is, but it was fantastical (the whole of the Old Museum, where the Finders Keepers markets were held, is enchanting). At top right are the Black Hawk helicopters which were on maneuvres past my office window for several weeks.

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Top left is a game of Triad in progress (as in, the ball game from Battlestar Galactica). The musicians are friends of my parents (he built the bookcases in my room at my parents’ house and now go to the church my parents were going to when my dad could still get out – they are also folk musicians). Bottom right begins the queue to see Santa at Indooroopilly:

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And the queue continues over the page, together with a reappearance by the gift tags:

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Teapots at the Tea Centre, a shepherd, wise man and angel, my Christmas… branch, and my mother reading “A Visit from Saint Nick” to my nephews, with commentary and morals (there is a larger version here if you can’t read it).

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We had a traditional Christmas morning: stockings were opened and cross-examined, then we had hot cinnamon rolls, fresh-brewed coffee and orange juice, had showers, did dishes (we like delayed anticipation) and then settled in for opening of presents. Then my mother made blueberry pie (top left) and we lay around groaning until Christmas lunch at 5pm. That weekend I went up to Toowoomba and watched Sherlock Holmes with friends.

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The showing we were going to watch was sold out, so we bought tickets for the next, then went to a coffee shop and drew in each others’ notebooks – Lisa’s is at top right above, Anna’s at top left below, and Aimee’s on the right.

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Conflux 6, Canberra

And so Conflux is over, the last of my conventions for the year, and I am back in Brisbane with a few extra books and… a lot of mat board, for some reason.

Guests of honour this year were Jim Minz of Baen Books, Marc McBride (illustrator of Deltora Quest) and Emily Rodda (author of Deltora Quest).

There were some external complicating factors, but I had a great time and got to catch up with old friends, make new ones and transact some bookplate business (of which more once the file is signed and sent).

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I ended up being on three panels – Short Story Writing (the one I was meant to be on) with Cat Sparks, Simon Petrie, Mark Farrugia and Yaritji Green, Dealing with Writer’s Block (as an ersatz-Karen Herkes) with Jack Dann and Richard Harland, and one of two extras on Australian Comic Writers and Artists with Mik Bennet, Liz Kenneally and Jon Sommariva. The differing dynamics of panels are fascinating, but I learned a lot on all of them (and discovered that the ultimate power of being a panellist lies in people taking your book recommendations seriously). Also, I have a dream panel which would put artists, authors and publishers together talking about book covers.

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And of course we dressed up. It was 1880s style for the banquet, although in my case that was a tiered green cotton skirt, a sofa cushion and my year 12 formal dress (!) with a number of safety pins. The masquerade was a prelude to a concert, so we didn’t have many attendees, but I was there (with the heavy black plastic frames from a pair of 3d glasses, a cute white blouse half-unbuttoned and a Superman t-shirt) and in one of those unexpected twists of the universe shared the dancing prize with Richard Harland (just be careful mixing bouncy soles with Footloose).

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Outside of the convention, I managed to drive my older sister’s car rather hi-tech car (you know that scene from Independence Day – “Oops – oops? What do you mean oops?!”). I caught up with an old friend I haven’t seen for 9 years, and today I went to Floriade with my older sister and nephews before flying back to Brisbane.

Post-con post

Natcon has finished. I’m staying an extra day in Adelaide to see the sights (although going to the gallery today with Dirk and Jason has given me a new perspective on art history) and should be back late Tuesday night, assuming I survive frog cakes, chocolate frogs and a hotel which appears to be acquiring a reputation for being haunted.

I’ll upload con sketches when I get back. In the meantime, here’s a page from the last batch (and next in the sequence of tv sketches):

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Illustration Friday: Rambunctious


Bad things almost always happen to rambunctious boys in fairytales. This is a reference to one of my favourites.

This is much looser than last week’s. Artland in Indooroopilly was having a 30%-off sale (and airconditioning, which is why I was in there) and I picked up (among many other things) some “scratch-etch” board: a shiny white card which you etch with a sharp tool and then rub oil crayon into. This is my first test-drive of it, and I’m looking forward to trying more effects and techniques, and also going for more contrast and precision.

Illustration Friday: Pretend


A lyrebird for this week’s Illustration Friday topic, “Pretend”. There are two types of lyrebird: the Superb (which has the more lyre-like tail feathers) and the Albert’s, which lives in Queensland and is the one I have seen in the wild when walking at Mt Tamborine. This is an Albert’s lyrebird drawn with markers. I like the way that, enlarged, it looks a bit like a bird on salt-glaze pottery.

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They are astonishing imitators – really strikingly accurate (that’s an Albert’s above and a Superb below it). This is a link to David Attenborough’s by-now-pretty-famous footage of their imitations (on YouTube).

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The fun thing about drawing them is they have this natural balance going on – more like an ornament than a bird. The design work is already done.

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Just going for silhouettes and facial expressions here.

But it isn’t all lyrebirds! I usually go through a dozen or more designs in notebooks and on scrap paper, fall in love with some and discard most of my favourites because of time constraints and the need to sleep occasionally if I am going to finish NaNoWriMo (42,000/50,000 to date, so I probably don’t need to worry to much there yet). As a bonus – and because I know I’m not posting as often this month – here are two sketches that have been messed with in Photoshop.

Little Teapot

I’d like her dress, except for the whole obvious ironing aspect, but the teapot shadow is creeping me out a little.

Pretend 5

And doesn’t everyone sing into fans and pretend to be Judith Durham?