Pushing through

A thing I have learnt from swimming every morning for the last ten years or so, is pushing through that feeling of ‘I don’t feel like it.’ This happens especially on cold and windy days. The reverse is now the case. If I don’t go for a swim, my body ‘complains’ and says ‘see I told you so, you should have gone. You’d be feeling much more refreshed.’ 

Nothing more annoying than a wingeing inner voice. To avoid that, I swim.

Drawing can be like that some mornings. Some days when I feel rather uninspired with drawing, I do something like this. Grab a pen, book and draw something in front of me. More often than not, a focus takes over and very soon a drawing of sorts appears. I think it helps to just keep the excuses at bay by using whatever is on hand.

The wonky vessel on the right, by the way, is a light fitting I found in an op shop for $4. I suspected there was a missing ceiling attachment thing but thought in a worse case scenario, it will work as a ‘vase’. And it does. Well…it doesn’t leak.


Here and out there in Murwillumbah

 Have you ever visited Murwillumbah? No? It’s a small town in the far north of New South Wales – gorgeously lush and with the Tweed River flowing through it. 

When you stay with friends and they are busy in the morning doing this and that, it is a great time to sit and admire and remember the view with a sketch. This is from their back porch.

This is what I wanted to remember:

– The size of the magnolias remind me of the warmth and generosity of heart I felt through the conversations with various people I met over the weekend.

– The wire gate, fence, timber parts gathered from here and there reused creatively to make spaces for guinea pigs and chickens.

– And out there, in the wider landscape there are cane fields and mountain backdrops. 

Thank you Leah, Neroli, Ena, Reuben and all your delightful friends.

A Chinese garden


This cheongsam came to my mother from her mother-in-law, my paternal grandmother. I love the tree-like motifs, gourd and flower motifs – kind of like a Chinese garden. Makes sense to me. 

One of the motifs, a gourd, is an auspicous motif to mean fertility and prosperity. I am being very shorthand with that description but you will find a much more eloquent and elaborate explanation at Gourds in ancient China. I am guessing that one of the flower motifs includes the peony, as prosperity and wealth would be a must in Chinese culture.

This kind of embedded meaning in fabric can be an effective way of handing down bits of a culture from one generation to another or one culture to another.

Looking back

It is that time of the year again where I feel the need to sort and cull. Always the same mutterings – ‘too much stuff’. And yet, when travelling I am able to survive quite well on 7 kg of luggage for a 4 week trip. But the minute I stay put, stuff just seems to accumulate.

Anyway, what has that got to do with this watercolour? 

When it comes to sorting through books and photos the whole process slows right down. And in this case I stopped at a photo. Although not very good, it is enough to see a beautiful young Burmese dancer waiting her turn to go on stage. I ‘had to’ stop, to paint her to appreciate the quiet gracefulness. 

She was part of the 2015 Laotian New Year celebrations. Laos New Years day for 2016 is April 12.

Ok. Back to the sorting.

A scholar, an elephant and a succulent

Still lives – a scholar, probably Confucious, an elephant from India and a succulent from a suburban gardener originally from Iran – threads I cannot quite connect to create a story. Not yet, anyway.
So here it remains, a little picture put together from moving objects around on a garden table. A gentle start into a new year. 
I have been meaning to thank you – dear blogger – for the many little blog exchanges and the wonderful artwork shared through your posts. It makeas for a richer blogging experience. 
Thank you and I hope for you, much creativity and happiness throughout 2016.

Learning from the Masters (2)

I am sure you can barely see the dabs of colour in the rough thumbnail sketch. But that was how it was to me to get the two more detailed views below – in this amazing painting of Francesco Guardi. But, there’s something about the paint dabs that beckon a second look and then a closer look – closer, if I weren’t concerned about the gallery alarm!

The details, the glints of light and of course, overall postures captured through these tiny paint dabs are amazing. I am learning a lot about the power of the paint dab.

It seems to me you really have to ‘let go’ of reality, be obsessed about light, shape and colour to…in a round about way…to capture reality. 

Well…reality as one sees it.

Francesco Guardi? Never heard of him, but so pleased I have now. And I thank him for a wonderful lesson.

Learning from the Masters (1)


‘The Greats’, Masterpieces from the galleries of Scotland exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW was a feast for the eyes. The works span from early Rennaissance to Impressionism. As with many exhibitions of this kind, there are many pieces that become ‘familiar’ through books and the internet. But it is always amazing to see the difference in the real form. I am usually surprised by:

  • its scale – it is either bigger or smaller than I thought
  • its detail – the brush marks and layering which is not always evident in reproductions
  • its colour – it is either brighter or duller than I imagine
  • its simplicity or complexity technically – it always seems the reverse of what I would have thought.

Some of the pieces are so rich in what they show. Like a landscape, there is so much to take in, it can be a bit hard to know where to start in appreciating it. 

As I was not able to stay more than hour or so, I decided to take iphone shots of the ones I liked – one in its entirety and another for a tiny detail that caught my attention. 

And what you see here is an exercise in appreciation. 

The dab of colour in the thumbnail sketch (left) is the detail I’ve had fun doing (right). It’s a treat to ‘unpack’ a fraction of what each artist was doing. Though, to be honest I was not quite sure how to ‘do’ Seurat’s technique. It seems a bit compex to me but very interesting nonetheless. 


  • Johannes Vermeer, The house of Martha and Mary (1664-5)
  • John Singer Sargent, Lady Agnew of Lucknow (1892)
  • Paul Cezanne, The big trees (1902-4)
  • Georges Seurat, La Luzerne, St Denis (1885)

Fiddling about

Can’t get enough of this fiddle leaf plant! It’s all the positive and negative spaces and shapes that I love. Turn is slightly and you get another configuration to draw.

It is a lovely feel in the air at present – warm breezes, quieter roads and relaxed routines – holiday season has begun. Love it. 

To make and to review (2)

Still making more little stationary sets. Not perfect nor extravagant as gifts. Just handmade.

In looking for ideas I am going through sketchbooks. But I find that it is somehow easier to make designs up by looking out onto the balcony for ideas. Do you find that too – that observation gives so much more variety or scope for inspiration?

What to draw is one exercise. The other is choosing which colours to use. As I am enjoying the convenience of this kids palette with its range of 36 sorbet-like colours, working out colour combinations is another exercise.

All good fun.

To make and to review (1)

Not much blogging, but still drawing – little drawings to make a few simple stationary sets as little gifts.

When rummaging around for ideas, I’m going through sketchbooks – quite a few by now. 

It’s kind of a way of reviewing what I have been doing. Needless to say, there are a lot of balcony plant sketches. Some plants have since drooped, gone and new ones added – an inadvertant record of balcony life!