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.