Saturday, 29 December 2012


Quick, quick, over here.
OK, I’m coming.
I said, I’m coming.
Move your legs super fast like me, so they look blurred.
Like this?
Yeah, that’s it. It will really freak those people out.
Are they looking?
Yeah. Keep going. That kid said he wants to pat us.
Well that’s not going to happen.
Ha, ha, ha. That’s right. We’re Sandpipers

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Santa’s energy snack

This year at our house, this is what Santa will be eating. It’s all of our favourite foods. I’m sure he’ll share the apples with the reindeer, apparently he’s good that way.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The great Christmas windows debacle, 2012

Dear Bourke Street mall,

Today was a bit silly really, wasn’t it? Did you have to be that noisy, chaotic and crowded?
You probably think it’s OK to have a queue 500 people deep to see the Myer Christmas windows, but I don’t think that’s cool. And maybe for future reference, buskers might need to be spaced a bit further apart than 3 metres. I can still hear the violinist, the drummer and the guitarist playing their separate tunes all at once bouncing around in my head.

I wanted to show my son the Christmas window display and he missed out. I’m not feeling very merry or Christmassy now.  My nerves are shot.

So here is a drawing of a little Christmas apple tree with a pretzel on top to calm us both down.



(Ahhh, I feel better now. It's time to get in the spirit and share some Christmas cheer. I was especially impressed with Abbey Hendrickson's Christmas tree on Aesthetic Outburst. Her little tree collection is also something so very sweet and calming to have a look at if you've got a touch of Christmas madness!)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Hello Summer

Hello summer. You’re here. I forgot about your arrival. I was distracted with other things like the permafrost melting, sea levels rising and trying to find parking spots at the shops at Christmas time. Despite my worries, I’m ready for lazy days in hammocks and warm nights dreaming of palm trees and coconuts. I’ve made a start on the lemonade icy poles and soon I’ll be walking along beaches with impossibly white sand and turquoise waters. Thanks for the pineapples, and mangoes, ooh, and blueberries. Thank you especially for the blueberries…

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Not so permanent permafrost

Have you heard? About the permafrost melting? The UN has reported today that with the thawing of frozen soil in the arctic, we are all in deep, deep trouble. Environmentally speaking, that is.

Now I don’t know about you, but this just made me panic with a capital ‘P’. Apparently we’ll start to see the effects of significant global warming as early as 2100. What! 2100? This is worse than the time my grade 2 teacher explained that one day, billions of years from now, the sun is going to explode and then the human race is going to be wiped out. Forever.

I don’t want it to get any hotter than it already is. Tomorrow’s forecast has predicted 38 degrees. 38 degrees in November, in Melbourne is not usual. Or fun. Especially when there’s so much asphalt and bluestone around. I don’t want the sea levels to rise. I like the coastline just as it is, thank you very much. I don’t want our earth to choke in greenhouse gasses. I don’t want people to suffer.

I’ve gotta go and plant some trees now. Right now.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Rabbit sisters

Once upon a time there were two sisters. One was, let’s say, nine and the other was seven. One day they went to a festival where they went on big trampolines. Because they were strapped into harnesses they were able to jump higher than they’d ever jumped before. It was like they were flying. Now and again, the girls would jump and spin around, upside down, squealing and shrieking. They were so excited that it was hard to tell if they were having fun or if they were terrified.

After their turns on the trampolines were over, the two sisters ran quickly towards each other.

‘Oh my god, that was the best fun I have ever had in my life! I loved it so much!’ said the older sister, breathlessly.

The younger sister spat out her words, ‘That was awful, I hated it. I don’t even know why you liked it so much.’

Without hesitation, the nine year old told her sister, ‘The reason I loved it so much was that I was doing it with you, and I love doing things with you. I thought maybe we could go and do it together again?’

‘I’m never doing it again, you can do it yourself.’ The younger sister was adamant.

So the sisters walked off together, away from the trampolines. Soon enough they were distracted by a ride down the big slide, which the older sister found boring and a turn on the dodgem cars which the younger sister thought was too noisy and jarring. Neither sister could agree on an activity.

When they found the baby farm animals, they went into the enclosure and each sat and held a lovely quiet rabbit.

‘I love this.’ The seven year old was beaming.

‘I love this too,’ said her sister.

They giggled, together.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Ok, here’s the thing. I’m vain about my hair. Which wouldn’t seem obvious really because I only get my hair cut about two or three times a year. It not like I look in the mirror constantly. It’s just that I like to know that my haircut is OK, then I don’t think about it. I don’t check it, I just leave it be. That’s why when I find a hairdresser I trust, I stick with them.

I’ve always been this way. As a very young girl, I remember taking over my ponytail duties because my mum just didn’t quite get it right. As an eight year old, I curled my long straight hair for a special event and my aunt was surprised that I felt the need to do it. When I was ten, my mum took me to her avant-garde hairdresser who gave me a cool asymmetrical style which I grew to hate as soon as the girls at school said it looked like a mistake.

In my early teens, I had a perm and was so distraught at the frizzy result that I ran shrieking down the hallway at home. When washing it several times didn’t dull the unwanted curls, I had it cut as short as I could. In my late teens, I shunned haircuts, growing my hair as long as I could, dyeing it a glossy black and adding coloured streaks to the front, just to be different, like everyone else.

By the time I was at uni, I was sick of my hair vanity and one late night at a friend’s house, with great drama, I chopped my long ponytail clean off at the hair band. The result was a surprisingly slick concave bob. After this I cut my own hair for a while. You can get away with it at art school. Then came dreadlocks, then the dreadlocks were cut off into a pixie cut, then years of various short hair styles, long again then short again…

Phew, it feels good to admit my hair vanity. And I know there are more important things in life to worry about. I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I suspect that we all have our funny little ways with our hair. Whether our hair is long, short, spiky, smooth, coloured, natural, curly, frizzy or shaved, I guess it’s all about having hair that makes us feel like us.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Living on Paradise Street

Well, the house was on stilts. Small green frogs lived beside the steps leading up to the house and he would often pick them up and say a friendly hello as he came home. A freight train chugged by at regular intervals, shipping sugar cane with a rhythm you could dance to. When it rained, the hockey fields behind the house flooded making a shallow and slick silver lake. After hockey games, he would go and collect used bottles to refund, until one day he was able to buy himself a shiny new dinky toy car. His mum accidently drove the car too far under the house once, crashing into the stilts. It was very lucky that the house didn't fall and that she wasn't hurt. He also had his very own pile of dirt which he would stand on top of, viewing Paradise Street and feeling that he owned it all.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


When it snows I want summer
When it's warm I want snow
It's the way that I've been
As long as I know.

After a big salty meal
I'll want something so sweet
If I've been in the forest
I'll crave a busy, bustling street.

On a train through the cane fields
Or in a ski lodge
There are things that I want 
That are always at odds.

If I've worn my black shoes
I'll wish I'd worn red
I'll regret choosing daisies
Instead of elegant orchids. 

If you ask where I'm happiest
I'll say, 'Oh, I don't know'
But the truth of the matter
Is that I'm happiest at home.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Little everyday tsunami

Hokusai lost everything. Starting over at a time when he should have been taking life at a slower pace, he kept making art. It was after this time that he achieved his greatest success. Strange to think that we know him best for his archetypal image ‘The Great Wave Off Kanagawa’, which he created as an old man, after he had worked all his life as an artist. An image which he created several times in different perspectives.

We all have our archetypes as artists. Our themes, the stuff we like to draw over and over. Sometimes we know why we repeat the images. Perhaps we like the form, or it reminds us of a happy moment, or we are confident creating it and we want to tap into that confidence. Other times, we may not know why we draw something repeatedly. The meaning might emerge at a later time, or it may not.

As kids we copy and repeat images to learn how to master our skills. That’s part of our development. At some stage we build our own repertoire of images we love to draw. For Hokusai, the wave is a cultural and historical representation of the time in which he lived. It’s a powerful reminder of nature’s effect on our human lives.

For me, the wave is a little bit of a tsunami in everyday life. Scattered down the supermarket aisle, looming on the meeting table at work or rising in your own bath at home, the wave can show up, unassuming and gentle or as a tremendous threat to the moment. Thankfully, everyday tsunamis eventually just become calm pools of water. Just like Hokusai, we keep going, doing what we love and making images about it.

(Hokusai (1760-1849) was a Japanese artist producing work in the Edo period)

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Woodpecker

Sometimes it kinda feels like this, all day long. You know, peck, peck, peck peck, peck. My friend made the comparison over a cup of tea and I laughed when she said that she felt like a tree some days with three little woodpecker birds pecking at her. Yep, I know what she means.

Thankfully there are all the other times where our children amaze us with how absolutely exquisite they are and make us laugh at unexpected moments with the funny things they do. It makes the woodpecker days more bearable.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

What if?

What if it rained cats and dogs and your socks got all wet,
Would you keep one to love as your very own pet?
What ifs are everywhere, go on, look all around,
Then give your inside thoughts an outside sound!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Smiling and bobbing

Today is a quiet day. Boats are bobbing alongside ducks, buoyant, solid and cheerful. Sure, there are a lot of waves, just wave back.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Sit and draw

The things is, some cafés invite you to linger more than others. When you want to sit and draw, the last thing you want is stressed out wait staff hovering behind you, removing your cup the moment you finish your coffee and slapping the bill down as a non verbal goodbye.

I often draw when I’m out and about. I like the challenge of creating an image in different environments with nothing more than a sketchbook and a fineliner. I make it a game, no pencil, no eraser, no second chances.

That’s why a good café where you can take your time with a delicious cup of coffee, maybe even munch on a biscuit and have brief chats with friendly unobtrusive staff is such a precious find. In the end, I have a new drawing and the café gains a repeat customer, singing their praises to one and all.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

House in a serviette holder

What are you doing?
Um, drawing.
Why is that house in a serviette holder?
Because it is.
That makes no sense.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Spring wind

It's not the worst thing in the world, this spring wind. Even though the house has shuddered against big blasts and the orchids blew over like dominoes, the days really are changing. Soon we'll be wearing less layers and coming out of our houses more. Yes, there will be days when the clouds are heavy and there are more puddles to avoid, but if you stand still against the wind with your feet strong in your shoes, it feels like you're flying. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

I don’t think ducks eat ham sandwiches

I saw a duck today. Someone had been feeding it a ham sandwich. There was a piece of ham on the ground right in front of the duck and a blond man was enthusiastically feeding the duck a limp bit of bread.

Now I’m no duck expert, but that duck looked confused. The look in his eye told me, ‘Hey, what the hell is that you’re giving me? Ham? Do I look like a seagull, or a crow? I don’t eat meat dude, except for the occasional bug here and there…’

I seem to remember hearing that you shouldn’t feed bread to ducks because it gets stuck in their bowel and could kill them. Or is that pigeons and rice? I’m not sure if this is true, so I didn’t say anything at the time. Maybe I should do some research on ducks so the next time I see someone feeding a duck a ham sandwich I can defend the duck with confidence.

(P.S. I checked up on my duck facts and the reason not to feed ducks bread or anything else really is that it can fill them up so that they don’t eat enough of what they really need to prevent malnourishment. Feeding ducks food can also make their ponds scummy, lead to disease, create over population and interfere with their natural feeding instincts. Phew, feel like I should have known  all that!) 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hey winter, thanks for coming

Hey winter, thanks for coming, fineliner ©jb

Hey winter, thanks for coming, but, well, I think it's time for you to go. The blossoms are starting to show and I don't want to use the heater anymore. If only I could put you inside this snowdome until I needed you again next year.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

I served mouldy cake to my friends

I served mouldy cake to my friends. Accidentally of course. I had some too. Even then, I’m not entirely sure it was mouldy when I gave it to them. Brought home from the local patisserie in a crisp white box. It tasted fine, looked great. Glazed and glossy with pear slices and almond meal. I think I ate two pieces.

There was some left over. The next day, I admired the leftover cake sitting quietly under the glass cake dome. I love the sight of a beautifully presented cake. It makes my heart sing. With my cup of tea freshly brewed, I took the knife to cut off a slice of moist pear cake. Lifting the dome, I didn’t notice at first, but as I looked down deciding where to place the knife, there it was. Alive and robustly growing outwards like tiny little caterpillar fur. Mould. Lots of it.

Well. Into the bin it went. My cup of tea tasted slightly sad after that. Disappointed that the cake had let down it’s end of the bargain. It was meant to be in my mouth, not the bin.

So, sorry to my friends, hope I didn’t make you sick. Next time you come around, I’ll open a packet of biscuits.

(Although, you never can be certain of anything. I once unwrapped a chocolate bar only to find it had a bite taken out of it. But that’s a story for another time…)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Someone's in the fishtank

Aquarium, fineliner ©jb
Sometimes the strangest things happen and no one blinks an eye. We just get on with things. Or we stop, stand still and wait for something to happen, taking cues from each other before we decide to react.

A siren went off in the shopping centre. Sharp, sickening, the sound filled the air leaving no room for anything else but fear. We all looked to each other for clues. A white haired woman read my face just as I searched hers for answers. What the hell is going on? Is it a fire, a gunman? What should we do, what should we do?

The noise went on and on. I had stopped still near a doorway, pram handles tightly gripped with my little boy looking around apparently unaffected. A female voice spoke through the loudspeakers. This is an emergency, please stand by for further instructions. What? Stupid loudspeaker lady. Give us the instructions now! 

I looked around. Some people were still shopping, walking around like they were in a nightclub, used to the oppressive noise. A woman and her young daughter wandered backwards and forwards nearby and asked me what was happening. I told her that it was best that we stay near the doorway, just in case. But to myself, I wondered if the threat was inside or outside the doors.

So I stood frozen to the spot and waited, prepared to run with my boy if I needed to. The loudspeaker lady spoke again. Attention, the emergency has been resolved, repeat, the emergency has been resolved.

Immediately, as if we'd melted, my fellow frozen shoppers and I moved off our spots, joining the flow of carefree shoppers once again. With no explanation for what had happened, some looked slightly embarrassed, as though they read the situation too seriously. Others, like myself who had children with us gave each other a practical smile as if to say, 'Just doing our job, paying attention and keeping our little ones safe'.

Monday, 2 July 2012

My quiet little fox friend

A fox in the forest, pen and ink ©jb
The last time I saw a fox was a couple of months ago. I was parked in my car in the early hours of the morning. It was dark and so, so very cold. The street light was showing me the shape of the road and the concrete gutters seemed to glow silver against the bitumen black. Everything was still. As if the air had been sucked out of the suburbs. No leaves, branches or blade of grass moved.

And then there he was. Bounding out between two trees like he’d always been there. Sure footed yet with a cautious gaze, it seemed that his amber coat glowed and warmed up the still air around him. He knew he had to careful, that he wasn’t usually greeted with a happy smile. Crossing the road in front of me, he foraged around in a bush or two and then as quickly as he had appeared, he slipped away out of sight.

I started up the engine, it was time to go. My quiet little fox friend had broken the stillness of the morning and I drove away with a smile on my face.

Monday, 25 June 2012

We planted two apple trees

We planted two apple trees like sentinels beside the path, pen and ink ©jb
At the market it was sunny and clear. Not a warm, sparkly sun, but a cool winter glow. We felt cheery and relaxed as we went from stall to stall. One stall had beeswax candles, another had delicate orchids in shades of pale yellow, watery greens and mottled reds.

Someone called for their dog, ‘Apple, Apple, come here.’ My head spun around but through the moving crowd I couldn’t see the dog with the sweet name. At the fruit and vegetable stall we bought tiny little green apples. We spoke to a man selling apple trees and bought two on impulse. You need two, did you know that? So that they fertilise and produce fruit.

We planted the two apple trees like sentinels beside the path. I look forward to walking between their blossomed branches in spring and in a couple of years’ time, picking fresh apples for us to eat.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What's so great about a pile of dirt?

Pile of dirt with its very own puddle, pen and ink ©jb
Everything was neat, neat, neat. The houses in a straight, clean row. The pocket sized gardens manicured as if to say, 'It looks like this all the time, with no effort at all.' Walking along the bitumen coated footpaths, I caught glimpses of the lives inside. In one front room, a piano with a slick modern pendant light hanging above. On the window sill of another house was a wonky clay pencil holder in the vague shape of a tree. I thought about the child who lived there and what it was like for them living in such tight spaces.

Environment effects me in ways that I don't often recognise at first. When I lived in a small apartment, I spent hours walking or riding my bike just to get some space. On the other hand, I could spend days at home when I lived in a large, warm and cozy house. So this is why I was so curious about how people felt living in these houses where walls and noises were shared.

It seems the more we intrude on each other's personal spaces, the greater the need to ignore each other. Walking cobblestones in the inner city, we avoid gazes and keep our eyes ahead or down. Even if we live in the same street. In the suburbs we may say hello to a fellow dog walker or pram pusher, maybe followed up with a chat with someone we may have seen a few times. It seems more space = more chats.

So about this pile of dirt. When I saw it in the neat inner city park, it looked so reassuringly solid. Like a mini mountain with a cool, still lake at its base. The track marks left by the dump truck were like arrows, drawing our attention. Come on, come and play. Get messy. Make some space for yourself. Breathe.

After I had noticed this pile of dirt, I started seeing them everywhere. On the side of the freeway in various shades and sizes. In the back of a ute in peak hour traffic. In suburban driveways, ready for landscaping. Each pile a funny little reminder of the need to get some space in nature now and again and to get some dirt under your fingernails.

I don't really know if anyone else had noticed the pile of dirt in the way that I had, but I hoped so.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Ducks can talk, you know

Forest swim, pen and ink ©jb
We walked and walked and realised that we had lost our bearings and didn't know how to get back to the carpark. Round and round we went, past the impossibly green, grassy field and the woman walking her big dopey dog. We stopped to watch the golden leaves flutter down from the oak tree as the breeze picked up. On the bridge, gazing down at the ducks swimming in the lake, we made quacking sounds and the ducks replied, 'We don't sound like that!'

Ok, they didn't really say that, just like these ducks weren't really swimming in a nest perched on a tree branch. But that's the beauty of drawing. You can make life be any way you want it to be with the stroke of a pen.

Oh, and we did eventually find our way back to the carpark - the ducks gave us directions.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Work in progress...

Apples in the apple tree, pen and ink ©jb

You really like apples, don't you?
And wood.
So is this what you're working on at the moment?
Uh huh. It's part of an alphabet series where foxes will be in the forest, reindeer will be in the rain and snowflakes will fall into the sea.
Ooh, the snowflakes sound nice, can we see that one?
Um, in a little bit...after all, it is a work in progress!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Never, ever give up on your rat's tail

Never ever give up on your rat's tail, pen and ink ©jb
Recently, on a trashy current affairs program, a boy who looked about 7 years old was telling a reporter that he was not allowed to go back to school until he cut his rat's tail off. He looked up at the reporter with such a serious expression and said, 'My Granddad told me to never, ever give up on my rat's tail'.

Now this boy was so earnest and he seemed so passionate about his rights that I couldn't help but feel for him. I mean, that rat's tail was long. Halfway down his back. That kind of hair style takes commitment. The school clearly did not appreciate his determined spirit, but he should be admired. This kid had guts, because thin long plaits are not a popular choice amongst most 7 years old boys.

I imagined him plaiting it and redoing it to get it just right. I imagined him choosing the little plastic band very carefully and winding it tightly at the tip, snug, secure and complete. That rat's tail radiated pride to me and the story clearly reeked of injustice. In a world where everyone is trying to be so stylish, this boy's story told me that we should all have a little bit more commitment to the very things that we love but which may seem a little bit daggy.

So I say, have pride in your favourite pair of purple jeans that give you a muffin top if you just love them and feel good in them. For those who love to wear slippers outside, go for it! And if anyone ever has a go at you, just tell them with your chest puffed up with pride, 'I'll never, ever give up on my purple jeans/slipper wearing/rat's tail.'

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Words to include in a conversation tomorrow

Eiffel Tower

Example: Hello person on the bus, have you ever eaten an apple whilst using your lawnmower? Well I have and I tell you what, it's not such a good idea, because I dropped my apple and it fell under the blades creating such an excruciatingly messy puree all over the garden and all over me. I wish I had been wearing my sunglasses because a bit of apple landed in my eye and I was temporarily blinded so then I walked into the garden bed and stubbed my toe on my ornamental Eiffel Tower. You know what I think I need is a good old fashioned picnic to take my mind off the apple/lawnmower incident. You seem like such a pleasant person, gee whiz, you're definitely a good listener, would you like to join me?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012