Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HATCH Opening Night

Left to right from back: Brigette, Karl, Jordan, Jason, Lorell, Amanda, Leah and Ryan (photographer)

Our 'guerilla' exhibition HATCH, held at the SA Writer's Centre, officially opened on Friday night and was an unqualified success. The turn-out was greater than any of us expected and there was an incredibly positive and excited buzz in the gallery as visitors soaked up the amazing work on display.
I still can't quite believe how smoothly this exhibition came together - my fellow illustration students are just an exemplary bunch and I feel so lucky to share this final year with them. 
Of course, this exhibition is a prelude to the Visual Communication graduate show, which happens in late November. I'll post more about that as it gets closer to the time.

Outside the SA Writer's Centre

It was so exciting to have such a large space full of people

aylor (my daughter), myself and my friend, Eva

Sue Ninham opening the exhibition
You can check out all of the students' wonderful illustration work here

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Three Good Things

The recent warmer weather has made me realise just how close we are to summer and the end of another year. On a personal level, it's been a very strange year in many ways - sad and horrible times mixed with deliriously happy ones. Life's funny that way. So because nobody really wants to read about the tragedies of an illustrator, I'll just jump right to the good stuff. Three good things that have happened in the last two weeks.

1. I've been signed to Omnibus Publishing for my first children's book, which will be published next year. This is a dream come true for me, and has made all of my hard work and late nights and early mornings over the past two and a half years completely worth it.

2. I'll be participating in a wonderful exhibition later this month.

"The Adelaide Writer’s Centre has joined forces with University of South Australia (UNISA) Visual Communication Illustration students to present HATCH, an exhibition of this year’s finest graduates. This is the first time that a graduate exhibition of this kind has been seen in Adelaide. It is rare opportunity for the public to engage with a selection of cutting-edge work by some of South Australia’s most talented and energetic graduate image makers. 
HATCH is a celebration of this dynamic discipline and marks the entry of UNISA’s next generation of Illustration students into an industry that continues to inform our culture in new and inspiring ways. Sue Ninham, renowned Visual Artist and 2012 Fringe Poster winner, will open the exhibition starting at 6pm on the 19th of September. Located on Level 2 of the SA Writer’s Centre, 187 Rundle  Street, HATCH will be open from Monday to Friday, 19th September until 5th December."

3. I finally have a new site up and running. It's still a bit of a 'work in progress' and will no doubt undergo many changes, but I hope you will all stop by and check out the work I have uploaded.

So that's my three good things...at least the ones I thought were worth blogging about. Would love to see those of you who are in Adelaide at the HATCH exhibition, it should be a great night.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Art Day..."Dark Heart" - Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art 2014

Saturday 1st of March was opening day for "Dark Heart", an exhibition I've been looking forward to for some months. I always attend exhibitions with high expectations. Sometimes I'm disappointed (Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize, 2013), sometimes I'm ambivalent (Saatchi Gallery in Adelaide, 2011) and sometimes I'm giddy with happiness (Ron Mueck, Melbourne, 2011).
Wonderfully for me, "Dark Heart" fell into this last category.
First stop was the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, where Patricia Piccinini's "Skywhale" was  hovering for a few hours on that day only. As we made our way through the gardens, the giant hot-air balloon sculpture could be seen peeking through the trees, and when in full view it was an amazing sight. I was surprised at how "fleshy" it appeared, especially when I looked back at the photos I took.
From the gardens we moved to the Art Gallery of South Australia, where our first experience of "Dark Heart" was a house that appeared to have either fallen from the sky or emerged from under the earth - for me it was wonderfully disconcerting and the concept and blackness of the building had a Wizard of Oz feeling about it.
Happily, photography was permitted inside the exhibition, and the photos below are only a tiny sample of the artwork on show. These were two of my favourite works. The first is a piece by Alex Seton called "Someone died trying to have a life like mine". When I entered the room and saw the mass of empty life-jackets strewn across the gallery floor, there was an immediate emotional reaction...then I realised that each and every life-jacket was in fact a perfect replica carved from marble. It was extraordinary.
The last group of photos are of Julia deVille's installation, "Phantasmagoria", a menagerie of taxidermied animals presented as children's toys in a Victorian-style child's bedroom. I guess this is the kind of artwork that really divides opinion. The reactions to the work in the small amount of time that I was there ranged from wonder and fascination to horror and bewilderment. I really enjoy deVille's work, so my reaction was the former. I won't go on here, but you can check out Julia's website and I should point out that all of these animals died of natural causes and to my knowledge Julia is in fact a vegan.
Like I said, this is a very small part of the "Dark Heart" exhibition and it's well worth a visit (or two) if you're in or near Adelaide. I will definitely be going back at least once.
We concluded our "Art Day" with a visit to the Adelaide Convention Centre to see Emma Hack's exhibition of her incredible body painting. You can see more of her work here. A great day overall, this is definitely the time of year when Adelaide shines.

First glimpse of the enormous sculpture, "Skywhale".

Full view.

Underneath the back end (tail).

Those lips!

The giant, pendulous breasts really 'amped up' the overall fleshiness of the work.

Side view.

The 'dropped house' outside the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Alex Seton's marble life-jackets.

Julia deVille's "Phantasmagoria".

Julia deVille's "Phantasmagoria".

Julia deVille's "Phantasmagoria".

Julia deVille's "Phantasmagoria".

Julia deVille's "Phantasmagoria".

Julia deVille's "Phantasmagoria".

Emma Hack

Emma Hack

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Patricia Coombs & the "Dorrie" books

I learnt to read somewhere around the age of four. I have a very clear memory of the actual moment that the words in my "Dr Suess's Beginner Book Dictionary" made sense and became recognisable. From that time until the present, I have loved books and reading and could count on one hand the number of nights in my life where I haven't read myself to sleep. Even if I fall asleep without a book, I invariably wake an hour later and reach for whatever story I am currently engrossed in. I can't even imagine not reading every day and I am truly and deeply amazed by people who tell me they don't read for pleasure.
When I was primary school age, some of my absolute favourite books were the "Dorrie" series by American author and illustrator, Patricia Coombs. The books centred around a little witch called Dorrie who lived with her mother the Big Witch and her cat, Gink and a female cook. There was no father ever mentioned in the books and I wonder now if that played a sub-conscious part in their appeal for me, as I grew up without a dad in a completely female household.
I was lucky enough to live literally just down the road from a large and very well-stocked
community library. Whenever the Dorrie books were available I would borrow as many as my
card allowed and take them home to read and re-read until it was time to return them and hope
that new ones had come in.
Possibly even more than the stories themselves (which were, and are, completely wonderful) the
most  appealing aspect of the books was the incredible illustrations. I am lucky enough to own several of the twenty Dorrie books (click here for a full list) and when I look at them now, which I often do, I am no less impressed. The illustrations are mostly monochrome with occasional splashes of colour and are rendered with either ink or graphite. Each character has a distinctive and immediately recognisable silhouette and the mood of each story is deftly maintained throughout every book due to the skilled and sensitive use of these two mediums.
I'm sure that these books were very popular, but I've never met another person my age who read or remembers these books from their childhood. Perhaps they weren't in wide circulation in Australia? Pity. I read the books to my own daughters when they were younger and they all loved them. So, I'm sharing some of the illustrations here in the hope that more people will seek them out - I've heard that some are being re-printed, but I'll have to look into that further. Would love to hear from anyone else who read and loved these as a child.

Each book begins with these words.
("Dorrie and the Blue Witch", 1964)

I love Dorrie's profile and her faithful companion, Gink.
("Dorrie and the Wizard's Spell", 1968)

Lovely pen and ink.
("Dorrie's Magic", 1962)

Splashes of colour heighten the atmosphere.
(Dorrie and the Blue Witch", 1964)

Beautiful, soft graphite drawings.
("Dorrie and the Birthday Eggs", 1971)

("Dorrie and the Wizard's Spell", 1968)

("Dorrie and the Screebit Ghost", 1979)

("Dorrie and the Birthday Eggs", 1971)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Narrative Project

Towards the end of last year, one of my major assignments involved storyboarding a narrative of my choice. As children's picture books and stories played such a vital role in my childhood and beyond, I regarded this as an opportunity to explore the process of illustrating a children's text.
The story I chose to illustrate is called "Brave Molly" by Terry Jones, which is from a book of short tales by the author called "Fairy Tales" (Puffin Books, 1981). I love this collection of stories. They are a perfect mix of fantasy, humour, darkness and danger - all of which, I believe, are the essential components of a good fairytale. Besides, who doesn't love Terry Jones...he was always my favourite Python and he's worked with Brian Froud (the 'Lady Cottington' books).
Anyway, "Brave Molly" is a terrific little story about a small girl who encounters a big monster when she seeks shelter in an abandoned cottage to escape a thunderstorm. Ultimately, she discovers that the monster is not what he seems and finds her courage in the process. The story is full of fantastic imagery to illustrate and besides being very laborious and a steep learning curve, this whole process was a complete joy for me.
I did storyboard the entire story, even though I was only required to complete sixteen small
(80 x 90mm) cells and I'm continuing the project in my own time by rendering each spread at full
size with type.
I thought I'd share the process for one of the completed spreads here and then post more as I complete  the final versions.
1. Initial sketches for Molly and the Monster.

2. Rough line cells (there were many more of these, but the one on the right was
the concept I chose to go with so I've just shown one of the alternatives).

3. Tonal study for chosen cell.

4. Colour rough for spread.

5. Final spread (full size) - coloured pencil, gouache and ink
 on illustration board.

6. Final spread with type.