Sunday, November 27, 2005

Small for Illustration Friday 

Small for IF by IanTPlease click on image and Expand for large version...

This is a picture from a few years ago, so some of you might have seen it already. It accompanied a 12 page comic story, Children of the Moon, which I did for an Australian manga anthology, Xuan Xuan. It was done in line and wash, ink and watercolours. I've come to think it has some major shortcomings, but oh well, it fits the theme :).

The Princess seen here is fairly indifferent to most dragons (unlike her little sister, who is the main protagonist) - though apparently not to this particular one - and the baby dragons are the possible salvation of this small world.

This picture is from the second episode. As with most of my comics, I conceive them as one-offs and then the characters seem to want to keep going and I continue the tale. With Xuan Xuan having ceased, I might complete and publish the whole story at some point...

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Saturday, November 26, 2005


Yesterday, I went back to visit the place I worked last year as a Team Leader on secondment. They were having a ceremony to close down the Service Desk of the area. It was lovely to see them all again, particularly my own manager, who I miss working with. Catching up with staff from the area was fun - one has since retired, another is now working less hours, and one had moved on to another department.

Someone there said "You look younger!" I replied with "I feel younger," which fell rather flat :). There were a few people I didn't know, one of whom actively snubbed me until it was mentioned that I was a past manager in the area, at which she suddenly started talking to me (I was wearing jeans and looking slightly informal, but it's no excuse). A few people I had bumped into at the Industrial Rally, but it was also telling that there appeared to be others who looked nonplussed at the mere mention of such a thing - fascinating :).

All in all, it was fun to catch up, and it's always interesting to go back somewhere you remember before it changes a lot. I miss working there in some ways, but not the interminable distance I had to drive every day to get there.

Today we went to another School Fete (that's three weekends running now). J and a friend had a stall there doing "Crazy Hair" - with pipecleaners, feathers, ties and glitter - and it went really well for them.

Time I drew something...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Rock 'N' Roll Fairies Part 4 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe December issue of Total Girl magazine is out now! The Odyssey-like adventures of Dillon's Rock 'N' Roll Fairies (drawn by me) continue onwards into the unknown, with many mysterious places and characters to be discovered...

For Summer fashion, I know we all want to Be Like Batrisha!

And today I got myself an ABN (Australian Business Number).


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free for Illustration Friday 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThere's a lot going on at present, so there's a chance this will be my last Illustration Friday for a while, and it's inexcusably slack at that (there's those bricks again!). As another IFer said recently: something's got to give and it looks like it will be IF.

Actually, now I think about it, something relevant to the theme is that we have a sulphur-crested cockatoo living on our roof (and the overhanging trees), and he's evidently someone's pet, though not all that tame. Every morning I've been climbing up and giving him food and water, and he hisses. The cockatoo has been here for nearly three weeks now. I can't really catch him, but I worry with the feral cat that's hanging around again. Domesticated birds (and animals) never seem able to go back into the wild properly - he sees the wild cockatoos but doesn't seem interested in them.

This picture isn't really intended as a self-portrait - just a sketch of an idea about having no idea for a sketch.

Drawing-wise I have a load of submissions to finish up, plus one competition I want to enter and another local project. Stop reading now if you're not interested in personal stuff.

The last two weekends we've had School Open Days/fetes. I'm also busy organising music and lights for J's end of year function - pop music gives me a headache!

Sadly, H seems to be having a lot of trouble with her mother (the dreaded ex-wife) lately, and that's going about as badly as it possibly can. There's other family stuff going on as well, but for me this is really the worst of it.

I'm not sure I understand the concept of "Free" anyway.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Snack Bar Comic 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAn ingenious new concept, the Snack Bar Art Space, is a new project using vending machines to distribute artworks in the inner city of Melbourne.

Tonia Walden has put together a nifty little minicomic, featuring a bunch of great local comics artists. Some of the work has appeared previously in other publications, but my piece(s) in there haven't - it's a great collection in any case. The artworks in the Snack Bar project (including the comic) will be contained in small labelled cardboard boxes, available at $2 each.

The first vending machine will be located in the Brunswick Coin Laundry at 326 Victoria Street, Brunswick. If you're over that way, please grab a copy before they're all gone! The launch is on Wednesday night, 6-8pm (I won't be there though).

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The main piece I have in there is a one pager in landscape format, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. Yep, that's right, it's a sendup of Rupert Sheldrake's goodhearted but pseudoscientific book of the same name, and also C. M. Coolidge's (now classic) cheesy dog pictures from the 1920s.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Changing spots 

There's been a story in all the newspapers here about a 9 year old boy whose arm was mauled by a leopard on Tuesday, while on a school excursion to Melbourne Zoo. He apparently climbed over a barrier and had his arm deeply scratched by Kashmar, the one-eyed female Persian leopard. He's recovering well and doesn't seem to bear a grudge. However, it's interesting that today's papers have universally paraphrased or altered the boy's quote about revisiting the Zoo, where he talks of in future going past the "cheetah" that got him on the way to see the reptiles - replacing it with the word "leopard" instead (the real soundbite was played on Triple J's news yesterday).

Beyond the editorial aspects of this change, a cheetah would have been extremely unlikely to attack him in this manner (particularly as it lacks retractable claws and doesn't prey on people) and there are currently none at Royal Park. Leopards have grown up with small primates (including humanoids) as a primary food source, since time immemorial. As this boy is apparently interested in animals, I wonder no-one has explained the difference between a cheetah and a leopard at this highly relevant stage. Fortunately, everyone seems to be regarding this attack sensibly, and I hope it won't mean added bars and fences on enclosures.

I'm probably writing this because it relates to a book review that I plan to write here soon... (no, not Life of Pi again :)).

And I'll ignore the predictable wide disparities in the representation of crowd estimates for Tuesday's Industrial Rally by the various presses...

P.S. No Illustration Friday from me this week - I've been rushing around doing a million other things and haven't had the "Strength."


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dromkeen - Peg Maltby, Patricia Mullins, etc. 

A week ago we drove up to pick J up from a School camp and took the opportunity to visit the wonderful Dromkeen Museum collection of children's book illustration at Riddell's Creek. I'd been planning to do this for a while, partly as it was an opportunity to try to further research a particular Australian children's writer/illustrator who I am planning to try to write an article about. Funny, Riddells Creek was where Reverie was edited, but I hadn't been back there since then.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWe were very fortunate on the day, and got to have a good look at a lot of the beautiful original children's book illustrations housed in the Dromkeen archives. This particular picture is by late local Peg Maltby, one of Australia's famous fairy painters from the classic local period early last century, and this original is still stunningly bright and clean: it looked as though it were painted yesterday! Jill has a very beaten up old copy of the original Peg's Fairy Book from 1946, and Maltby was commissioned to again paint these illustrations in the late '70s for a new edition (I recently managed to find a copy to give Jill for Christmas... ssssh!)

I know I said this last week (with regard to Ron Embleton), but even the finest of reproductions fail to capture the clarity of detail and brightness of colour of original artwork by the best illustrators. Viewed side-by-side, as at Dromkeen, the array of different illustration techniques was dazzling, particularly across a wide range of time periods. There was one recent book where the pictures were made of sown felt. Jeannie Baker's extraordinary three dimensional collage/dioramas are always worth a detailed look, and I enjoyed seeing some original line and wash work by the delightful Bob Graham.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comTaking an entirely original approach to creating your children's book visions is a good way to go and more likely at attract the interest of editors. Patricia Mullins produces her work out of cut and torn tissue paper, sometimes with painted textures, and all glued down very carefully. Again, the colours on the original are gorgeous (this one is also quite large). I enquired about whether she had problems with lightfastness, and whether the tissue paper colours would fade quickly, but apparently Mullins uses imported Japanese tissue papers that use high quality pigments.

As for the author/illustrator I'm researching... a cursory search by the very helpful staff member who showed us around revealed two of her books that I hadn't seen before - fantastic!

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Industrial Relations rally 

Pic by Jo Gillespie, image hosted by Photobucket.comThis morning I attended (along with somewhere between 170,000 and 210,000 other people) the Industrial Relations Rally in Melbourne, protesting against the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) legislation. I consider this the most important and far-reaching change this Liberal government has yet made in Australia (and I include its pro-war & immigrant detention policies, terrorism and sedition laws, and Goods and Services Tax in this).

Many people seem to have forgotten that every working right we have was fought for, largely by Union action, over the past 150 years in Australia, and long before that in Britain - including the 8 hour day, meal-breaks, shift penalties and all forms of leave. We stand to lose it all. The Howard government appears ideologically committed to stripping liveable wages and reasonable hours from workers. The effective outlawing of Unions will disarm any resistance and the removal of unfair dismissal provisions for any company with less than 100 employees (easy enough for most companies to arrange) will make instant sacking possible for... no reason at all.

Part of the plan was revealed with the forcing of pensioners back into the workforce (enforcing minimum rates by forcing those with least choice to accept them). When the Liberals talk about creating more full-time work - to replace part-time and casual - they quite likely mean the same pay for much longer hours! The real damage will take time to show, but Howard's agenda will change Australian society permanently and adversely, changing work culture and eroding family life, while insuring the privilege of the wealthy at the cost of the poorest in our society.

(Thanks to Jo Gillespie for the above picture)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Night for Illustration Friday 

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"The moon shines bright, as I rove at night..."

When I thought about this topic, I found myself musing on the songs and poetry of great Scottish nationalist, Robert Burns. The picture is just a plain pencil sketch on cartridge paper with no computer cleaning up whatsoever, just a slight colour tweak to add the blue tint.

Here's my vision of Burns wandering the Highlands, off to meet his girlfriend, inspired by a couple of lines from Westlin' Winds (or Song Composed in August), which mostly describes the stirring of all the Scottish birdlife in search of mates, and his disapproval of the "slaught'ring guns" of "tyrranic man." The woodcock shown here is an odd nocturnal snipe-like bird that can see backwards better than forwards.

Partly, Burns was in my thoughts with regard to our new sedition laws here in Australia: as writer David Marr recently pointed out, Burns wrote his political verse under a pseudonym, fearing imprisonment for sedition (as happened to other writers such as Daniel Defoe and Ben Jonson, not to mention Mahatma Gandhi, Christ, Nelson Mandela and locally, Eureka Stockade leader, Peter Lalor).

There are many collections of Burns' poems set to music, but my all-time favourites are the very fine electric folk CD by Davie Paton, Passions Cry (re-recorded and reissued in a slightly different form as Fragments), and the gentler, but also very enjoyable Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns. Yep, that's the same David Paton from '70s band Pilot and Eddi Reader who fronted Fairground Attraction!
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pirates anthology comic! 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comImage hosted by Photobucket.comAaar, here be Pirates, a thick (no, not like a plank!) mini comic, edited by Tonia Walden and with an excellent cover by Jase Harper.

This marvel can be bought for a mere $6 from the good people at Phase Two Comics. Inside you'll find space pirates, video pirates, fancy dress party pirates, dog pirates, disabled pirates, (non G-rated) teddy bear pirates and plenty of the more traditional sort.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAnyone who has been around here for a while will have already seen the first full page of my story, Over the Reef (that page is in the Archives here), so I'm not planning to feature anymore full pages... here's a couple of snippets though.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMy inspiration was drawn from a couple of classic old Jeffrey Farnol novels - adventurous swashbuckling pirate yarns - thus the dedication on the first page. The style is a kind of romantic/realistic stark black and white look. I really like pure black and white. It's related to the way I drew Riffin' to Oblivion and it was fun and a bit of relief to be drawing in a completely non-Manga style again.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOn the anthology itself: it's kind of a followup to Tonia's earlier two anthologies, Once Upon a Time and Eat Comics (which featured The Bunyip and the Whistling Kettle by me).

Most of the pieces in Pirates are short, humorous pastiches, with a few longer more dramatic stories thrown in for good measure (mine is a five pager). I think it's a balanced anthology with plenty of substance: a lot of different styles and, most pleasing of all, some unfamiliar Australian artists who don't usually appear in these books!

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ron Embleton 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAs I've mentioned before, Ron Embleton is one of my childhood artistic heroes and someone (I have come to realize) who has had a major subconscious influence on me and my work.

Yesterday, I found myself holding an original picture of his and I was awestruck by the beauty of it! The reproductions of his work that I had seen so frequently in magazines when I was growing up - Once Upon a Time, World of Wonder and Look & Learn - are beautiful, but had in no way prepared me for the sheer meticulous perfection of his original paintings!

This picture is one that I particularly remember. I'd thought he must have first completed a picture in shaded grey inks, then layered watercolours over that, but now I'm convinced he painted in gouache (with limited transparency) and layered the colours themselves, which I find staggering to contemplate given how much of this work he must have produced in an average week.

The tiny brushstrokes and detailed linework really had to be seen to be believed. My gut reaction is that there is no-one who could produce work like this now (though hopefully I'm being unfair, but I doubt it). I would say, with reasonable certainty, that there isn't a current illustrator of this calibre working in Australia. At any rate, my appreciation for the glorious work of this underrated and underappreciated artist has grown even further, and I didn't think that could happen!

Also, I'm happy that there are a few of us working in the area of creating continuous adventure stories for a young audience right now - Embleton (and some of his contemporaries) are probably one reason for that!

(Picture is (c) Copyright to Ron Embleton, and the publishers of Once Upon a Time and Disneyland magazines)


Monday, November 07, 2005

We're not crazy, just artistic! 

From The Age newspaper - I don't usually link newspaper articles, but this one confirmed something I've always suspected.

Anti-social? No, just artistic (by Geoff Strong)

"KNOW any creative types: writers, painters, musicians, actors? Chances are they tend to be contrary, a touch psychotic and rebels, cause or not... Although all creative people tended to have what is known as schizo-type personalities..."

Okay, I know what my own issues are, but the odd thing is, they fuel both my need to make art (in whatever form) and the way I go about it. Also, I think most artists I know create work that is informed and motivated at least partly by their pathologies, so I guess I agree with the conclusions of this study.

Funny, Jill and I discussed this article and had both instantly come up with the same use for a brick :).

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Broken for Illustration Friday 

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This week I had a number of ideas for the concept, so I decided to combine two of them into a simple picture made in Paintshop. At first, I thought about drawing this, but I think it actually works better this way - simpler and clearer - and I already drew a map by hand last week :).


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Heather Dale, Maestoso, Steve Hackett 

I'm always listening to music while I'm drawing, and I'm very album oriented in my listening: here are a few recent CDs doing plenty of rotation at my place.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comHeather Dale - The Road to Santiago

I'm a complete fan of this artist already - all her CDs are wonderful listening, but I think The Road To Santiago is her finest yet - definitely start here if you haven't heard Heather Dale already!

This album sees Dale branching out, exploring new musical and thematic territories. In the past, her work as songwriter/musician (and sometime prose writer), has tended to focus primarily on the Arthurian myths and medieval-influenced music. From the opening 5/4 of Dale's piano and vocal on Hero, it's clear this album will be full of new surprises.

As ever, Heather Dale's remarkable, versatile voice - a beautiful instrument in a league only with Loreena McKennitt or Mary Fahl (October Project) - proves perfect for voicing her intuitive, moving, often witty lyrics. Overall, her songwriting on Road conveys a sense of people in place, accompanied by imaginative production and lyrics.

The flow of the album takes in the a cappella (plus percussion) title track, the soulful (ie: Hunter, Confession, Sedna), the bawdy (Up the Pear Tree), the theatrical (Flowers of Bermuda, Medusa) and still finds time to rock out. A personal favourite is Dale's rollicking version of the Pratt's The Black Fox - as tastier slice of narrative, electric folk-rock as I've ever heard (and I've heard plenty). This is the same ballad recently done in comics form in the Charles Vess' edited The Book of Ballads (drat, otherwise I would've done it!)

J also loves this album, particularly The Black Fox, Yew Tree and Sedna.

If your musical interests include Celtic, folk, folk-rock or folk-progressive, you need this CD in your collection!
See: Heather Dale.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMaestoso - One Drop in a Dry World

"Here we go..." Essentially a solo vehicle for the songs of Woolly (AKA Stuart) Wolstenholme, keyboardist and sometime vocalist with Barclay James Harvest, this album is a real gem and took me by surprise. The bizarre fragmentation of BJH into two bands some years ago aside, Wolstenholme has seen a resurgence of energy and inspiration in recent years, with several new albums.

Something that is strong throughout is, as expected, the arrangements, featuring plenty of mellotron for orchestral depth. There's also a tight band feel overall, with guitar, bass and drums making full contributions to the sound and doing justice to the Wolstenholme's powerful, committed, often poignant, songwriting.

There's a sociopolitical bent to much of the material. However, the balance of personal and political is right, with pieces like the insomniac anthem 2 am offsetting more cynical fare, such as ANSS (Another Summer Song) and We the Starving People of the World Thank You for Your Time. The whole album rocks along solidly, abounding with hooks that bring out the emotional core of the songs, often reaching soaring heights as in the show-stopping, Middle Eastern influenced Souk.

Wolstenholme's reedy, wistful vocals are featured to great effect across a range of styles. While his range and pitching are sometimes limited, he works his voice to these limits perfectly, with moving pathos and expression (think underrated members of other bands such as Dewey Bunnell in America or Randy Meisner in The Eagles).

A majestic but heartfelt album that calls to be heard repeatedly in its entirety. See: Woolly Wolstenholme.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSteve Hackett (remasters) Voyage of the Acolyte - Please Don't Touch! - Spectral Mornings - Defector

Wow, Steve Hackett has finally got around to freshening up his classic first four albums. I hesitate to call them "solo" albums - even though they are the wide-ranging vision of one extraordinarily brilliant artist - because they generously feature the contributions of a staggering array of well-chosen guests.

People seem to vary as to which of these four is their personal favourite, though Voyage, recorded while Hackett was still in Genesis and featuring both Rutherford and Collins, has something of a cult following among progressive rock fans.

My personal favourite is Please Don't Touch! which is, to my mind, pretty much a perfect album. While all feature amazing musical diversity - everything from classical, to jazz, blues, soul, reggae, progressive, hard rock, '20s swing, New Age and electronic, sometimes in the one song - none are more eclectic and changeable than this one (some listeners might find this too challenging, but it sits just right with my musical attention deficit disorder :). Featured vocalists include Steve Walsh (Kansas), Randy Crawford and the sublime Richie Havens, employing his warm vocals on the devastating closing ballad Icarus Ascending.

The stark clarity of the remastering strikes me as a little harsh in places. The Agatha Christie pastiche Carry on Up the Vicarage sounds almost remixed, with this mix favouring the lower of the absurd octaved vocals, but it's worth it to have the title track of PDT segue into Land of a Thousand Autumns without the track break of earlier CD releases.

Personally, I prefer Hackett's solo catalogue (along with a bunch of other Genesis member solo releases) to most of the Genesis catalogue, so being a fan of that band is definitely not a pre-requisite.

The Hackett remasters are musically tasty and essential purchases for demanding listeners! See: Steve Hackett.


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