Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Australian Book Plate Design Award 2020

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enchanted by bookplates. This is the first relief bookplate I’ve designed in many years. It’s also the first one I’ve made especially for myself and the first of my works to include our cat, Alice. That’s her third from the top in the group of photos below, obligingly posing with the finished lino block.

The biennial Australian Bookplate Design Award was the impetus for this project. For several years, I’ve been keen to enter, but each time the dates have coincided with a particularly busy period - usually the lead-up to a show. In this year of lockdowns, with all of my exhibitions postponed until next year (yet another update on those will feature in my next post) I found myself with some unexpected time on my hands. This time, I was able to make the bookplate a top priority. The closing date for the Australian Bookplate Design Award 2020 was originally mid-October and the bookplate was finished in good time for that. Despite its title, however, this is an international award and given the continuing uncertainties of COVID-19 in many parts of the globe, the deadline for entries has been extended to 28 February 2021. I’ll have a lot on my plate in the first few months of the new year, so have posted off my entry well ahead of time.

For many of us, our books and pets provide diversion, stimulus and inspiration, not to mention comfort and solace - never more so than during the months of lockdown - and it is to this that my work pays homage. The bookplate design incorporates the motif of Rückenfigur (a figure viewed from behind) that is central to much of my imagery and draws from a decades-long accumulation of personal iconography, including hair ornaments, decorative collars and stylised Arts and Crafts-inspired crimson roses. 

The block was printed on the little craft press purchased online during lockdown specifically for this purpose (see final photo below) and hand-coloured in watercolour. Dimensions are 15 x 12.5 cm (image) on A4 sized paper. A selection of progress views follows directly. 

For more about The Australian Bookplate Design Award, go HERE.

As 2020 draws to a close, I think it’s safe to say there isn’t one of us who will be sad to see its passing. Unfortunately, 2020 isn’t quite done with us and there’s no doubt the impact of the many curveballs it has thrown with seemingly ceaseless abandon will be felt well into 2021. Nevertheless, I wish each and every one of you a safe, happy, healthy and fulfilling New Year. But more than that, here’s to a brighter future when the last vestiges of 2020 are well and truly behind us.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

We need a little Christmas

Veteran visitors to this blog will be well aware that Shane and I take great pride in our Christmas trees. We have two of them. The small tree saw many Christmases in our house in St. Kilda before we moved into a warehouse apartment at Abbotsford in Melbourne. In recent years, our larger tree, pictured above, graced the living room of our second home in Golden Point, Ballarat. Late last year, after we’d sold both places and moved into to our new home in Ballarat East, we installed the big tree in our upstairs cinema room. At the time we hadn’t fully settled in and didn’t have the energy to erect the small tree too. This year, both trees are up. 

This time last year, our projector wasn’t installed and the big tree took centre stage. Now it’s been placed to the right of the cinema screen alongside two trompe l’oeil paintings by Shane. The small tree, our sentimental favourite of the two, is downstairs in our living room. (It’s pictured below, fourth from top, with Shane’s painting, Christening Gown).  Lately we’ve been sorely in need of some cheering up and got out the trees a little earlier than usual, with some unsolicited assistance from the irrepressible Alice (below, left).

Our Christmas tree decorations hold countless memories of travels and distant friends. Some are from such faraway places as Boston, New York, San Francisco, Berlin and London. Our most recent acquisition, a silver zebra, was purchased at Playing in the Attic, right here in Ballarat. In a year where international travel, and so much else we once took for granted, are just fond memories, our decorations are all the more precious.

Even the most eternal of optimists amongst us must surely admit it’s been a particularly trying year. The bouquet of white flowers in the two photos directly above is a recent gift from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Bev Murray, who is currently in lockdown in London. She tells me that according to the Interflora catalogue, the arrangement  is called ‘Hope’. 

One of many sad losses in the last twelve months was the composer/lyricist Jerry Herman. His song, We Need a Little Christmas, originally composed for the musical Mame, has never felt more timely. Incidentally, Mame is based on the novel, Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis, a book I’ve loved since plucking it off my parents’ bookshelf as a child. Mame Dennis is unquestionably my favourite fictional character. A measure of Herman’s success in transposing the novel into a musical comedy is that when I re-read the book, I can tell precisely where every song fits. Prior to the musical, Auntie Mame was a celebrated stage play and film, with Rosalind Russell starring in both. For many, including myself and none other than Patrick Dennis, she is the definitive Mame. For me, the great Angela Lansbury, who originated the role in Jerry Herman’s 1966 musical, comes a very close second. To see her reprise We Need a Little Christmas in concert, go here:
Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things but deck the halls again now
For we need a little Christmas, right this very minute
Candles in the window, carols at the spinet
Yes, we need a little Christmas, right this very minute
It hasn't snowed a single flurry but Santa, dear, we're in a hurry
So, climb down the chimney
Put up the brightest string of lights I've ever seen
Slice up the fruitcake
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough
For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder, grown a little older
And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder
Need a little Christmas now
For we need a little music, need a little laughter
Need a little singing ringing through the rafter
And we need a little snappy happy ever after
Need a little Christmas now
Jerry Herman, We Need a Little Christmas, from Mame, 1966
Jerry Herman’s website is here: ðŸŽ„
For more about Auntie Mame, including a link to its author, Patrick Dennis, go here:  

Saturday, December 12, 2020

World Premiere of THE BIG KITTY

In the lead-up to Christmas comes some terrific news. Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby’s indie film, THE BIG KITTY, a comedic Film Noir pastiche in which I play the sinister spiritualist, Madame F, has hit the international stage. 

THE BIG KITTY is proud to announce its World Premiere and selection for:

The San Francisco Virtual Film Festival
11 - 27 December 2020

Click on the following links for dates & tickets (which are only $10):


The festival films are here:

For more about THE BIG KITTY, visit my blog post of 14 September:

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Beyond the Sea

Pictured above: a small triptych as yet untitled, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 38 cm overall. 

A deeply personal work, it will form part of a suite of paintings. The collective title of the suite-in-progress is Beyond the Sea (a working title only, although it will probably remain).

This is essentially a tonal work involving a palette of only two colours. Beginning with a black gessoed surface, I used Titan Buff and Paynes Grey from the Golden range of acrylics. For those who are interested in the process, a series of progress views follows. Click on individual images for a clearer view. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A visit to Melbourne

Yesterday we delivered my lino block to the Australian Print Workshop, well ahead of time for the APW Collie Trust Exhibition in March 2021.

For several months, right up to yesterday morning, I’ve intermittently tinkered with the image, trying to second-guess any issues that might arise during the printing process. I couldn’t help myself, despite the ever-present danger of overworking or otherwise stuffing it up. Understandably, it was a considerable relief to save the block from myself and place it in the hugely capable hands of APW master printer, Simon White. This will be the third time I’ve worked with Simon. He also editioned my prints for the 2014 APW Summer School and IMPRESSIONS 2018, the APW’s biennial fundraiser. Collaboration with Simon is always a pleasure and also tremendously instructive.

Shane and I were surprised at how relatively quiet the Melbourne streets are, despite the gradual opening up of the city. As a result, we were able to run our remaining errands a lot faster than usual, including stocking up on art supplies from St. Luke Artist Colourmen.

A highlight of our day trip was Rona Green’s delightful exhibition, currently on view in the upstairs gallery of Australian Galleries Stockrooms in Derby Street, Collingwood. 

Before heading home we made a side-trip to Williamstown for afternoon tea with our dear friend, Leigh Hobbs. We were well ahead of schedule and managed some quality time by the ocean beforehand, followed by a stroll around Williamstown’s lush Botanic Gardens. It sure felt good to breathe the sea air again. It’s been awhile. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Looking forward to…

In this brief follow-up to Looking forward (Blog Post Monday, September 28) are the latest updates on my future exhibitions, most of them originally scheduled for 2020, but postponed until 2021.

The George Collie APW Award Exhibition at the Australian Print Workshop, a joint survey of my prints and those of fellow award recipient, the late Barbara Hanrahan, has now been confirmed for Saturday, 6 March - Saturday, 3 April 2021.

Revised dates for Backstories, my solo show at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, were also recently confirmed. The exhibition will run from Wednesday, 7 April - Friday, 23 April. The opening event is on Saturday, April 10 2021.

My residency at Geelong Grammar remains penciled in for May 2021, dates TBC.

As previously posted, my solo show at Queenscliff Gallery will run from Sunday, June 3 - Monday, June 21 2021.

Dates for a third solo show, at Gallery on Sturt in the second half of 2021, are still TBC.

The above information may be subject to further changes. Nevertheless, as things gradually open up in this part of the world, it’s heartening to have something more concrete to work towards.

In that spirit, pictured top is my newly completed drawing, Looking forward, 2020, ink and gouache on Khadi paper, 21 x 15 cm.

Saturday, November 7, 2020


Deborah Klein, current work in progress, a triptych as yet untitled.
Acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm (each panel).

I have to stay alone in order to fully contemplate and feel nature. The painter should paint not only what he has in front of him, but also what he sees inside himself.

Caspar David Friedrich

Recently I discovered by sheer chance that the dominant motif in my work for well over two decades has a name. It’s “Rückenfigur”, or “figure seen from the back”. Why did I not know this before? The subject dates from antiquity, but the term originated in the German Romantic Movement of the 19th century and is most closely associated with the painter Caspar David Friedrich, whose work I’ve long admired. In fact, his paintings were the main catalyst for my current body of work, a series of anonymous figures I call “Journeywomen”.

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818.
Oil on canvas, 94.8 x 74.8 cm, Kunsthalle Hamburg.

The history of figures viewed from behind spans the entirety of visual culture, including graphics, cinema and photography. Among the painters who have employed the Rückenfigur in their works are Rene Magritte, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Gustave Courbet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres andmost notably and consistently, another of my favourite artists, Vilhelm Hammershøi.

Vilhelm HammershoiInterior with Young Woman Seen from the Back, 1904.
 Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50.5 cm, Randers Museum of Art.

The Rückenfigur is often portrayed as an outsider, reflecting a mood of quietude, self-containment and isolation, although she doesn’t necessarily travel alone. Paradoxically, she invites us to share her journey and see the world through her eyes, to the extent that we almost become her.

What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, ca 1597.

I’m fairly well versed in the ever-evolving history of  “rear view portraits,” yet this feels like a real light bulb moment. I am amazed at how empowering it is to to know that there is a collective name for them. To my mind, it validates and unifies this somewhat scattered tradition. Moreover, the Rückenfigur addresses a particularly divisive time in our history, when our state of disconnection - from ourselves, from each other and from the natural world - seems greater than ever before. 

Only connect! That was her whole sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.

– E. M. Forster, Howards End, 1910.

Photo credit for above image: Shane Jones.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Lost and found


This painting was missing, presumed lost, for a couple of years. In the months following last year’s move, I discovered it in a storage box we had believed to contain packaging materials. (It did, but the individual components of the painting were safely packed underneath). 

The work was a finalist in the Geelong Painting Prize in 2002 and toured in the curated group show, ‘The enchanted forest - new gothic storytellers,’ in 2008-2009. 

I even wrote a fairy tale based on it. An early draft of the story was published in my first blog post. You can read it HEREThe final version of the tale was subsequently included in my book, There was once... the collected fairy tales (2009).

I’d more or less resigned myself to never seeing the painting again, so much so, that I still find it hard to believe it’s back in my possession.

Pictured top: Swarm, 2002, acrylic on 32 oval canvases, paired. Large: 25 x 20 cm each; small: 15 x 20 cm each. Overall dimensions approx. 172 x 194 cm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

THINKING OF PLACE II - further travels

Today’s blog post brings news I’ve been remiss about sharing earlier: the group exhibition, THINKING OF PLACE II, originally conceived for the international print symposium IMPACT 10 in Santander, Spain in 2018, is currently on exhibit at Northsite Contemporary Arts in Cairns, Far North Queensland. The show opened in September and continues to November 7.

Prints being multiples, from today, October 21, and continuing to November 1, the exhibition will run concurrently at Arthaus Contemporary Gallery in Orakei, Auckland, New Zealand. For further information, visit the Facebook page of THINKING OF PLACE II HERE.

Yesterday a review of the exhibition by Ina Arraoui arrived in my inbox - an unexpected and delightful surprise. My contribution to the show, the phemograph Detritus, 2018, pictured above, is referenced in the review. Back in 2018, I was unable to travel to Santander for IMPACT 10. With continued travel restrictions, it’s possible I won’t even get to see the exhibition in any of its subsequent venues, so my thanks and gratitude are extended to Ina for giving many others in the same boat a very real sense of what THINKING OF PLACE II is about.

Ina Arraoui is a New Zealand-based print artist and curator. Her website is HERE.

The introductory paragraphs of Ina Arraoui’s review are directly below. To read the review in its entirety, click HERE


Although many of us envisage a physical geographical location when thinking of place, it’s more often than not a complex synthesis of feelings and memories that ultimately defines our relationship to a place. Printmaking artist and academic Monika Lukowska argues that notions of place are inseparable from the human experience, referencing geographer Yi-Fu Tuan’s theory of “topophilia” whereby place only comes into existence when meaning is attached to a certain location resulting from time spent between the person and the space (2018). The exhibition Thinking of Place II is an impressive cultural exchange project where over 60 artists from 9 printmaking collectives across 5 countries have been invited to make works exploring questions of place. Artists were encouraged to reflect on the relationship between place, memory and time, using a range of traditional and contemporary printmaking processes and techniques, resulting in a rich and engaging conversation, as diverse in perspectives as in the collection’s visual presentation. 

Background to the project

Thinking of Place was initially conceived as a cultural exchange project between five artist groups from New Zealand and Australia. Members of each group had met at the IMPACT 8 Conference in Dundee, Scotland, instantly striking a lasting friendship and giving birth to a trans Tasman collaborative print project.  After a successful first edition of the exchange, which was exhibited in each of the host cities, the organisers decided to continue the momentum with a second iteration of the project to be exhibited at IMPACT 10. In the spirit of the printmaking community, which is marked by a distinctly inclusive, collaborative approach, the project expanded to include four more groups from Canada, Ireland and the UK.  Whether a group is based on a shared geographical location or print studio, each one is committed to advancing printmaking and supporting artists working in print-based media. Collaborative projects such as Thinking of Place give printmakers the opportunity to not only exhibit their work on the international stage but to foster professional and personal connections across the printmaking community, globally. Participating artists have been selected by each group either by invitation or open call. 

Read on HERE.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

New adventures in printmaking: craft presses

Back in May, during the first period of lockdown, I purchased the craft press shown here. Since then, I’ve been predominantly focused on painting and drawing and it’s only recently that I’ve had the chance to try it out.  

Essentially the press is an embossing and die-cutting machine, but it can also be utilised for small scale relief, monotype and intaglio prints. Our two etching presses have been in storage since last year’s move, and due to insufficient studio space, they are likely to remain there for some time yet. Meanwhile, there’s a small project I’ve been keen to undertake, as well as an accumulation of previously carved lino blocks that I’ve never even proofed.

I first became aware of the existence of craft presses via the Instagram page of Margate-based linocut artist, Nick Morley, AKA Linocut Boy. Long haul visitors to this blog might remember that he featured some of my work in his book, Linocut for Artists & Designers (2016). When lockdown was first introduced in the UK, Nick reported on Instagram that he’d resorted to working at home in his attic with only the the most basic of materials and something called an X-Cut. I had no idea what this was and it piqued my curiosity. Some online searching revealed it to be what is regarded as the Rolls Royce of craft presses. Aside from its sleek good looks, the X-Cut has the benefit of a dial at the top that enables change of pressure, a feature that’s generally lacking in similar presses. Unfortunately, my searches also revealed the X-Cut to be by far the priciest of craft presses - considerably more so with the added cost of international shipping. As it turns out, they are also the hardest to come by, particularly in this part of the world. If you are fortunate enough to track down an X-Cut, however, I recommend Annie Day’s informative article, Making prints with an x cut XPRESS Craft Machine in Creative Printmaking Workshops on her website, Printmaking SistersHERE

Further investigation led me to the Facebook page Craft Press Printmakers, which has close to five and a half thousand members. There I learned that most brands do a good job even without adjustable pressure - it’s simply a matter of experimentation with the amount of backing material used. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from there, I set out to order a press of my own. I was fortunate to find one on an Australian site, CraftOnline. It was very reasonably priced at $165.00, including shipping. (The price has since been further reduced). The press is designed for printing on up to A4-sized paper and even has a dial on the left side that enables adjustment of pressure. It’s an ideal size for small spaces like my current studio. Don’t be fooled by its kitschy brand name, Poppy Crafts, or its plastic construction and tizzy colour scheme. In my first efforts, printing initially from the old block pictured below, I’ve achieved infinitely more satisfying results and with far greater ease than with either of our etching presses. 

Click on images for a clearer view. An update on the Poppy Crafts press will follow in the near future.

Pictured above: Wallpaper Rose, the Disappearing Woman, linocut, 15 x 10 cm.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Now we are three

Today is Alice’s third birthday. That makes it nearly three years since Shane made the famous pronouncement, “I don’t want another cat, Deb.” And we know how that turned out.

Happy Birthday, Alice! 

Friday, October 2, 2020

For RBG 1933-2020

Lace collars have been a recurring part of my personal iconography for over two decades. The works featured here and several others not pictured were made at different times and in varying contexts. Art is often prescient, however. Nowadays I can’t look at any of them without thinking of “The Notorious RGB”. It feels as if they were always about her, even before I was aware of her existence. The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s iconic collection of collars were more than mere fashion accessories. Through them, she staked her claim on a traditionally male garment and at the same time, feminized it. 

The wider significance of her collars is detailed in Vanessa Friedman’s article, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Lace Collar Wasn’t an Accessory, It Was a Gauntlet, The New York Times, first published September 20, 2020:

When he was commissioned to design a visual tribute to RGB for the front cover of THE NEW YORKER, October 5, 2020, illustrator Bob Starke created the following work:

For background information on the illustration, read  Bob Starke’s “Icons” by Francoise Mouly, THE NEW YORKER, September 23, 2020 here:

Pictured above:

Remnants, 1999, acrylic on two canvases, 75.5 x 12.5 cm (top), 12.5 x 12.5 cm


Icons, Rob Starke, cover illustration, THE NEW YORKER, October 5, 2020

Pictured below:

Regeneration, 2020linocut in progress, lino block 42.5 x 26.5 cm

Anonyme, 1998, linocut printed from three blocks on Japanese mending tissue, 73 x 62 cm

Untitled, 1998, linocut printed from two blocks on Japanese mending tissue, 73 x 62 cm

Coil, 2001, acrylic on seven canvases, 60 x 55.5 cm

Still Life with Lace collar, 2001, acrylic on three canvases (detail) 131.5 x 40.5 cm

Page from an Album, 2000, linocut printed from three blocks on Japanese mending tissue, 63 x 74 cm 

Lace, 2000, acrylic on two canvases, 23.5 x 30 cm (upper) 20 x 25 cm (lower)

Web, 20002020, acrylic on 4 canvases, 35 x 25 cm 

For more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, go here:

The acclaimed documentary, RBG, 2018, is also highly recommended:

The trailer for RBG is here:

R.I.P., RBG. Long may your legacy continue.