Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hail to the train driver

'Train driver: "Sorry about the late running of this train ... we had been held up by bunyips that have escaped from the zoo ... on crack."'
Overheard, MX, December 15, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa meeting Uncle Sam

Inside card: 'NOW AND FOREVER _ _ Merry Christmas AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR. Corp. and Mrs Jake de Hartog.'
Circa early1940s, USA made greeting card featuring a map of USA inside

The artful swan dodger

Chateau de Chillon et la Dent du Midi*

I understand that white swans have grumpy temperaments. With that in mind I would give these giant swans a very wide berth.

*Vintage postcard circa 1910/20.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ellen is generous

Clint Eastwood on the Ellen show
"I'm just here for my stuff."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cookie sings Rammstein

This reduced me to helpless laughter! How fortunate that Cookie had that row of numbers and not one of the others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Napoleon's Imperial Star

(From a contemporary Picture. Time: The Austrian Marriage)

Image and caption from 'The Portraits of Napoleon the First',The Magazine of Art, c. Victorian era.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

How to make a fascinator: Part 2

Due to the unending popularity, and recent 'emulation'*, of my How to Make a Fascinator post** the fun will now continue!

Here are new instructions and tips from creating my sister's wedding fascinator, with step by step photographs to make it easier for you to make your own. If this is your first time here, and you're planning to make a fascinator, please take the time to read the original post because much of what I had to say still applies.

[edit 20/11/09]
My sister and her new hubby on their big day. Just lovely and they're so cute together :)
Photo by Nic Daws.

Following the praise received for my first fascinator, I volunteered my new found millinery skills to my sister for her wedding. She independently went to Spotlight and bought approximately $20 worth of materials;
two feather flowers,
hair slide combs, and
a pick of short emu feathers.
We discussed what she wanted - nothing too big or showy - soft and pretty. She had a pinky red and black theme for her wedding though her dress was a traditional white.

In addition to the materials my sister brought over I used
a foam disk (a soft and flexible projectile from a children's toy),
some scrap red satin,
organza (sheer) ribbon,
additional emu feathers,
craft glue, and
polyester thread.
She did not buy a base so this presented an opportunity to make one from scratch. The foam disk could be cut from a sheet of what is commonly known as craft foam, available at art and craft shops. Whatever you use to create a base, it needs to have a combination of rigidity so that it holds its shape while still being flexible to curve around the head when being put on. For this project the base is relatively small making this fascinator more of a big hair accessory rather than a hat substitute.

Making the base
1. The ironed, circular piece of satin was stretched over the foam disk. A pin helped keep it in place during the stitching process.

2. The reverse of the disk.
As you can see the stitching and stretching needs to be even and neat. Fortunately the foam is very easy to work with and sew through. I used the stitches to put a curve into the disk matching the curve of the slide comb. I gently brought opposite sides of the fabric together. Then I brought in the corners, squashed them down and stiched them to lie flat.

The pick of emu feathers was seperated into three even picks which were bound together with craft glue and thread. After rolling the ends between my thumb and fore finger with some glue, I wrapped the thread around the ends and put a little more glue.

An interesting and useful thing about emu feathers is that they come in pairs. Don't seperate these pairs. It will probably make them harder to sewn on.

3. The base was then double thread sewn to the comb.
Use a double thread for all construction sewing to minimise handling and maximise hold.

Something very useful I figured out all too late in the process is:
Slip a rubber band around the comb to stop your sewing thread from getting caught on the teeth.

The dimple of the base provided a cradle for the flowers' stems. They, and all other components were sewn on.
Make it attractive from from all angles.
The feather flowers are the star of the show. Their placement allows this fascinator to be worn on either side of the head. To achieve this flexibility of wearing it needed to be attractive from all angles. While this is always a concern with millinery, it is particularly important if the piece can be worn more than one way.

After virtually completing it I decided it needed 3 or 4 longer feathers. I hand coloured 4 emu feathers I had*** using Copic markers to match the bought feathers. Once dry the ink from these markers is more or less waterproof**** I did check out the central city store of Lincraft for an extra pick of emu feathers but much of what I sought looked like it had been trampled in a stampede or possibly plucked from roadkill. This was the week before Melbourne Cup Day. I wasn't going to pay $8 for a pick of 5 feathers with one looking FUBAR.
Be fussy about your materials.
Take your time choosing them.
Get your money's worth.
Get in early or go suburban to get the best.

The organza fans (see original post) add contrast, conceal the base and the feather quill ends. Each fan is made of about 5.5" of ribbon. The emu feather picks add volume from all angles.

This piece was about about one and half to two hours work.

*One case of the P word. Please just let me know if you would like to republish any part of my posts/blog and give credit where credit is due. I'm very happy to share - I don't make any money out of this - but I'd like some credit for it.
**Now 2 years old and still responsible for about 90% of my traffic, and about 99% during the Spring racing period.
***From my collection of exotic feathers accumulated from childhood visits to the zoo. Yes I'm a hoarder but I'm organised and it pays!
****Disclaimer: Depending on what the substrate is. I have used it on fabric to retouch colour, and subsequently laundered it without issues. It takes a few washes to get it out of your skin/fingers. I can't vouch for feathers but I am assuming they will be no worse than store bought coloured feathers...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Real or shopped? Chanel No. 5, with Audrey Tautou

I can't help but think that one of the images from the current Chanel No.5 print campaign featuring the lovely Audrey Tautou, has been doctored in Photoshop. I'm not going to put it up here because of copyright infringement though I did track it down online. It's an image of her on a train, with a view down the carriage, her in a black gown and her hair up, her hands on the window pulls and her pelvis titled towards the window. I feel it has been doctored because her bottom looks impossibly small. I took out a ruler and guesstimate it is depicted as being the same size as her head. I'm sure that' not her true proportion? I know she's fine built, and has a tiny behind (lucky girl) but surely she has more booty than that when posed so? With her pelvis pushed forward like that her waist comes up to be the almost same size as her bottom. Overall this tends towards a chic lollypop look.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

For medicinal purposes

I'd like to show you the coolest piece of furniture I own. Okay, so I don't own a lot but it's still very cool!

This is the $40, vintage, doctor's cabinet I got from my local Salvos. We have a shortage of cupboard space in a our kitchen so this was a welcome addition to our home. I stripped back the paint on the decorative hinges, maker's plaque (a Melbourne manufacturer originally based on Swanston Street) and nifty door clasp. I'm guessing it goes back to the 1950s.

Wheeling it to the car and into the apartment, my brother and I found its squeaky wheels and metallic clunky sound amusing. It reminded me of the UWW (Unidentified Wheeled Whitegood) from the moon in Wallace and Gromit's Grand Day out. So of course I had to put my figurines on there! The measuring glass in the background is from the 1950s and bought for a buck at Savers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Exhibition: Paper Butterflies

Hosted by Melbourne CBD's most unique shop Wunderkammer, Paper Butterflies will be a showcase of my most recent works. Some have been shown previously while others, notably the Paper Butterflies, have been created specifically for this event.

Paper butterflies, in progress.
mixed media

About Wunderkammer:
'The shop specialises in science and natural history. In the collection are antique botanical prints, anatomical models, specimens preserved in vintage glass canisters, fossils, medical instruments, beetles and butterflies in hand blown specimen domes: the scope of Wunderkammer is as broad as the scope of human scientific enquiry. The owner of Wunderkammer, Ray Meyer, chooses the objects for the collection based on standards of beauty, rarity, historical or educational value and, of course, the ability to inspire wonder. '

Paper Butterflies
Exploring our relationship with nature and the ephemeral.
Oct 23 to Nov 24th 2009

OPENING NIGHT: Friday 23rd October from 6pm

439 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, Australia
Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Friday 10AM-6PM
Saturday 10AM-4PM

Friday, October 16, 2009


"It was the banana! _Nobody_ expects the banana!"
This was in response to the security gate beeping because I missed the sticky tag on the banana carrier - an actual lunch box, banana shaped product, not a euphemism.

Friday, October 02, 2009

'The Gentle Art of Smoking' [insert sarcasm here]

This post virtually writes itself!

Dust jacket of 'The Gentle Art of Smoking'*
Unfortunately the art by James Arnold inside this publication is less remarkable.

From inside the dust jacket:
'People smoke now more than ever before; but all too often they only acquire an unthinking habit, and neglect the subtleties of an art both ancient and universal. Alfred Dunhill ... [insert sarcasm here] ... has long felt the need of a book which will help the modern smoker to cultivate less of a habit and more of a pleasure.
'Here is also the story of snuff ... [Dunhill rubbing his hands] a fashion which shows signs of regaining its popularity. '

Dunhill A, 'The Gentle Art of Smoking', Max Reinhardt, London, Reprint 1968 (originally published 1954),

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In a galaxy far far away. 7,500 light years to be more precise

Amongst the latest images form the Hubble telescope is this jet in the Carina Nebula which instantly reminded me of Watto from Episode I of Star Wars. I'm wondering if anyone else has noticed it. Surely yes? I'm not even a fan of Star Wars and had to ask my brother what the name of the character was. Anyhooo here they are together for your amusement :)


Friday, September 04, 2009

Cole's Funny Pictures

Cole's Funny Picture books were a Melbourne based publication full of strangely entertaining pictures for children, and accompanying text which often encouraged reading and and moral behavior. Several generations of Australian children have grown up with these fascinating books. They don't make them like this any more! Here are two typical images and an atypical image from one of the books.

Our Studious Pussy
Anthropomorphic animals have always been popular. Images of animals and people reading were used throughout the books, to encourage literacy in children. W. Cole ran two book arcades: the first in Melbourne and the second in Sydney.

Banyan Tree: A mystery of the dark continent.
Find out horse, camel, elephant, giraffe, kangaroo, & monkey.

Pictures with hidden animals and people as well as optical illusions are always of interest.

French incubator for rearing weakly babies.
This one is weird yet it's an atypically factual representation rather than fancy. I wonder if these inspired the saying 'a bun on the oven'!

Images from: Cole's Pleasant Learning Land (Child Land or Pleasing Poems for Pretty Pets) Number Two, Melbourne, 1900.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Edwin and Angelina the newts.

The author collected a pair of newts from a neighbouring pond.
'They fondled each other, waltzed round their glass home, played hide-and-seek among the pebbles, and became so tame, they would eat any day from their keeper's hand. Alas! a day came when that keeper had to leave home for a short time ; in other words, the aquarium must be left to the tender mercies of a housemaid more zealous than wise. So when I returned, there was much to hear, though rather less than usual to see, for Edwin had disappeared altogether, and Angelina had laid a golden egg, which the foolish housemaid swept away by mistake!'


'No wonder the poor thing pined for the loss of husband and child ; indeed, she died at last, I thought, of a broken heart, and was immortalised in spirits of wine, with a suitable epitaph written on the label outside an old scent-bottle.'

*Images and text from:
S.M. Crawley Boevey, Chapter II, 'My Aquariums', Sunday Reading for the Young, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co, 1892

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Koala Shoes

As a kid growing up in the 1980s I collected stickers. For a while anything with a sticker would make it into my sticker book (which I still have) including the labels from fabric softener, shampoo and assorted fresh produce. On each visit to my local shoe shop I got at least one Koala Shoes sticker. I only ever stuck the ones I had doubles of. The rest I collected loose and there are a lot of them. Here are scans of the most adorably dated ones. I'm not sure if they still exist as a brand.

These ones predate my own collection and were bought second hand at some point. However the one on the lower left was much later, maybe early 1990s?

Celebrating Australia's win of the America's Cup. He's so cute! I drew koalas like this for a while, with those eyes. Willy, Australia's mascot from the LA Olympics in 1984 looked a lot like this.

So 1980s :)

In the late 80s they changed from the circle, tabbed shape to squares.

It's rather ironic that most of the koalas - and this goes for the rest of the series as well - aren't wearing shoes!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More on the Rhone Glacier and vintage postcards

I previously shared some vintage postcards here, one of which was of the Rhone Glacier.
Here is a tunnel through it:
tunnel in rhone glacier
c. 1925

Here's one through another glacier which doesn't look a lot safer to transverse.
Glacier Tunnel

This is what a modern tunnel through the Rhone Glacier looks like: a nice, even board walk and lighting included!

Finally here's a sad little postcard from Geneva's Bern Zoo bear pit, which fortunately is no longer open. The photograph looks slightly doctored to me, with three of the bears having extra sharp edges and the corner bricks in the wall is a bit curvy when I suspect they should be straight.
Bear pit at Bern's Zoo, c.1925

Bern has a history of bear pits and bear keeping but they no longer keep the bears in pits. Bern Zoo's new bear enclosure will open later this year. It will feature growing vegetation and a river from which they can catch live fish. In captivity, it doesn't get much better than that. More here.

[smiles] Doing a spot of research to enhance the posts featuring images has been very interesting indeed!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Horace the Helicopter, illustrated by John Ryan

Horace the Helicopter is by Eileen Ryder (copyright is 1958 but no year of publication is listed) with illustrations by John Ryan. I believe this is the John Ryan, creator of Captain Pugwash who died yesterday. The time period fits and the drawing style of human figures in particular - I know I haven't included many - is the same. It's fitting that I should decide to share these pictures now, even though I had no idea who he was or that he had passed away. I couldn't find other images or information on the net for this book so now here they are!

Horace is a little helicopter who realises how special he is, even though he isn't a big plane, through a series of helpful tasks. I bought this charmingly illustrated book a few years ago from an op shop. This is a selection of my favourite pictures (wrap around text has been removed) from it.

'There was once a little helicopter called Horace who lived in a house [sic] on an airfield.'

Photobucket Horace'sOwner
'... he was very lonely at the airfield because the other aeroplanes
did not speak to him very much, and they used to make fun of him ...'

'... Horace belonged to a man called John ... '

'It looked very pretty, but Horace, all warm and snug in his hangar,
was glad he wasn't out in it.'

push horace
'"But it's snowing," said Horace. "I don't like snow, it's too cold."'

Horace in Snow
'It got colder and colder and Horace began to feel a little tired
because he was carrying such a heavy weight.'

'All the other planes were so busy that
he hardly saw them for the next two or three days...'

'Then he painted a big cross on the side of Horace's cabin.
"Now you really look like an ambulance," said John.
"I wonder what the other aeroplanes will say," said Horace.
...they all agreed he deserved it...
Horace thought he would always have the cross on him, but it wasn't very good paint, and the next time he went out in the rain, it all washed off.
"Never mind," said Horace, "I was an ambulance with a big cross on me, just for a day."'

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ruth Cobbs, Lands of Desire

My favourite illustrations by Ruth Cobbs, who also wrote the accompanying text called Lands of Desire, from Chatterbox. Details at end of entry.

'Where the Golden Apples grew.'
The Hesperides were the three maiden daughters of Atlas. Though they were supposed guardians of the golden apples they presented no resistance to Hercules. After slaying the serpent he took the apples. That's a bit of an anti-climax but Cobbs wrote this part of the original text much like that and with no mention as to why these apples are special.

These are no ordinary apples of course. They offer immortality. There are more interesting versions of Hercules'/Heracles' apple pilfering which explain that and the back story. Stealing these apples was Hercules' eleventh task from the twelve he had been set.

'Suddenly a waterspout came upon them.'
The True History by Lucian, was deliberately as far from the truth as possible. In his story they travelled for eight days atop a water spout, three hundred and fifty miles above the earth. To a modern layperson who is aware of the limitations of our atmosphere, this sounds fantastically high particularly for natural propulsion. It is, converting to approximately 563 kilometres. The ozone layer is between 20 to40 kilometres up. 563 km is in the ionosphere a.k.a. space. Accordingly, the voyagers land on an island that turns out to be the Moon. The story gets weirder as you go along including another island made of cheese in a sea of milk, a war with the Sun and being swallowed by a whale 200 miles long. The True History has been cited as the first example of science fiction. Read the start of it, online here.

Image accompanying the story of the Irish monk, St Brendan, and his seven year journey to a distant paradise. Read about his fabulous journey here.

Original images and text from : Chatterbox (1926, Children's Annual), published by Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., London 1926.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Liquid Desire & Destino

Now on at the NGV is Dali: Liquid Desire.

We went last Wednesday and my recommendations are:
Buy your tickets online there was a huge queue;
Hold off seeing it for a bit longer because you're pretty much queuing for the whole show, waiting in line to see stuff.
Patience is a virtue and you will need it. Unless you're like me and pop your glasses on, cut in when something grabs your eye and take them off again, plonk yourself right in front of it to drink in every detail, because goddamn it I want to see it properly now I've forked out $23. I want to see the legs on the ants and every little line he drew.

Good show though unfortunately I had already seen more in Spain and that's hard to live up to especially since there was so much installation art over there. My favourite jewellery piece, The Royal Heart, wasn't brought over due to its fragility and is represented by a looped video instead. I can't help but feel some of the best stuff wasn't included. That's probably because my memory of where I saw something in Spain is a bit befuddled and it wasn't part of the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí collection. Being a culture vulture, I visited the best museums Spain has to offer and there's a pleasing quantity and quality of Dalí . I've probably seen more Dalí than any of my friends and acquaintances.

A little gripe I have is that the first gallery's traffic flow continues to be a bottle neck. The other galleries allow a freer flow of viewing that allow you to get a little bit lost but in a nice way, despite the overall linear path of the show. Reader, has it been like this for every Winter Masterpiece show at NGV International? I don't know because this is only the second one I've been to but it happened last year at the Art Deco one as well and it wasn't as crowded.

I was left intoxicated and numb by the art at the end. I couldn't say whether it was good or brilliant. I had to go away and think about it: a little of both due to lack of freedom to drink it all in properly. Nonetheless it is definitely worthwhile. I was awed in person by works I haven't seen before including the small and meticulous portrait of Gala with lamb chops, the photography, and disintegrating atomic series. I loved Destino. If only it were longer [sigh].

Not sure how long this will be allowed up, so savour it while you can.

Now with more stuff!

Listening to: Zero by Yeah Yeah Yeahs from It's Blitz!

Regular readers may have noticed it looks a little different here since the weekend. I grabbed a new Blogger Template for Dummies aka those of us who use trial and error to tweak html [points at self]. I fiddled with it, adding handy new gadgets [points to right side of screen] and a slightly different colour scheme [does game show hostess waving hand]. I hope you like it and that your meerkat clipping experience is enhanced [cheesy grin] by the option to click a reaction if you just want to show you appreciated* something, new archive format, Google search function, labels list, and rolling blog roll via my Google Reader list.

* The blogging process is spontaneous for me. I blog about stuff I care about, things that grab my fancy. It's always nice to know if the reader enjoys it as well. Little bit of feedback of this sort gives me a better idea of what you like here and what I could spend more time covering.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Depp on Letterman

In an interview with David Letterman, Johnny Depp about his 10 year old daughter
"I also see little boys starting to line up, to date my daughter ... and I fear for them."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Complimentary and Complementary

Here's pair of phrases I've come up with to help me remember the difference between complimentary and complementary
Complementary things complete each other to create a greater whole.
Compliments are ideal.
Makes sense doesn't it? Hope that helps you too :)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Big show coming up: Slide Rules Have No Place At My Party.

This is one of several of my new, sculptural works that will be featured at Brunswick Arts Space from next Friday.
Lime and Soda
mixed media, framed sculpture

Lime and Soda, detail showing scrimshaw

Lime and Soda is about how the increased amount carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affects our oceans. The ocean naturally absorbs carbon dioxide but if it continues to absorb at the current rate we will see acidification. This affects the entire ocean food chain from the tiniest creatures upwards due to the negative affect on seashell integrity. The scrimshawed, seagull craniums depict a carbonic acid molecule and the degradation* of a seashell in simulated, acidified ocean water.

Slide Rules Have No Place At My Party.
An exhibition of small scale sculpture and other media.
Curated by Monica Zanchetta.
Opening July 17th, 6-9pm
17 to 31 July 2009
Brunswick Arts Space
2a Little Breese Street
Brunswick, Australia
Gallery Hours: 12-5 Thursday to Sunday

I will post images of artwork from this show when it's over, here

For those of visiting the show at any point, please note that from my bat sculptures, 10% of the proceeds will go to the Tolga Bat Hospital in Queensland. So you can help a poor artist AND an orphaned or injured bat!

*Based on photographs from National Geographic, 2007. Click for further reading

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sam Leach - The Margin

Sam Leach, 2009
Reflected Magpie
oil and resin on wood

The above is my favourite piece from a solo show by Sam Leach. The other two reflected animals exhibited are also rather clever although everything in this show is worth slowly perusing. Leach's art is extremely disciplined, perfectly detailed, moodily lit, strongly composed. His pieces are small, so no area of the artwork is neglected of a first class level of finish. I also like how they are coated in resin. It lends the works a greater sense of permanence.

Anyone looking to invest in art would do well to buy one of these. You know how you can tell an artist is going to be big? I was right about Ricky Swallow. Anyone with that amount of skill, a certain personal flair and style, and getting media coverage is going to do very well. Leach also has a piece in the Archibalds, and recently in Mute Relics & Bedevilled Creatures: Constructing an Antipodean Curio Cabinet (finished) at Counihan Gallery next to Brunswick Town Hall.

On until the 27th. Click link for further details.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Images from the new Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland film

OMG OMG OMG! [spins about giddy]
Wow these are awesome! [mind blown]
Images from the new Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland film
Character shots here.

John Williams, illustrator

John Williams, 1923
Who will win?

The slight Oriental influence in this illustration, particularly in the deer and river, is rather lovely. As a composition it's really interesting in terms of where the foreground is. The flow line as the eye travels over the work is pleasing.

I couldn't find anything about this illustrator or further works due to the plethora of 'John Williams' on the internet even when adding a few extra bits of information to the search. If only he had a quirky name! So in lieu of other works and recognition on the internet,
[tips hat] here's to you John Williams.

Original image from : Chatterbox (1926, Children's Annual), published by Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., London 1926.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Black + White (Shades of Grey)

I have 3 paper collages in the upcoming Black + White (Shades of Grey) show at Pigment Gallery in the CBD. None have been exhibited before and one was created especially for this.

Left to right details from;
Hopping Mouse,
Wild World,
Spectacled Bat.

Opening night: Thursday 25 June 5.30 – 8pm
25 June to 11 July 2009
Pigment Gallery
Level 2
Nicholas Building
37 Swanston St
Corner of Flinders Lane.
Enter via Cathedral Arcade, stairs or elevator.

More of my art here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Japanese Ceramics Part 1; Pink Fish Salt Shaker

How many items does it take to call a group of things a collection? Three or four is probably too few, so I won't claim that I have a collection of Japanese ceramics. One of the many things I appreciate in Japanese art is the way the artists capture the essence of an animal in a depiction - the following being a good example.

I'm not sure how old this solitary, Japanese salt shaker is. Circa mid 20th C? It's one of those random quirky objects my father or brother got at a market, I spotted and claimed for my own. I like: the fluidity of its form; the typical piscine, pouty facial expression; the subtility of the glaze. I did a spot of googling and found a complete pair in black. Generally salt shakers have fewer holes so at least this confirms I have the salt and not the pepper.