Illustration Friday : Stay

New Orleans would have to be one of my favourite places to stay in the USA.

This is a map I did for They Draw And Travel -- they asked for a very personal map -- things that aren't necessarily in the tourist guides but the things YOU love to do in a city. And that's exactly what this is. We often visit NOLA due to my musician-husband's desire to have been born there, so we have many rituals, a lot of which are on the map.

I have always wanted to illustrate a map and I had sooooo much fun doing this. If I have time I may do another for Melbourne!

Travelling home.

I am back from my 5 week trip to the US!

It was such a great time....

Getting inspired, and meeting new and old friends at the SCBWI conference in Seattle (see previous post)....

Dancing all day and all night in New Orleans....

Catching up with family including two little nieces....

And to top it off a positive meeting with a publisher in Boston....

And I've returned to some fun news too:
 My illustration is one of the chosen ones for They Draw and Cook's Cookbook, out now! (buy it here)

I will also be featured in 100 illustrations next illustration Annual

I will be starting work immediately on 2 books for Five Mile Press.

It's always nice to have some good news and something to dive into to help dispel the post-vacation blues!

Eat Love Pray (Love)

I think my trip can be summed up with the above title.

Montreal: Eat
some truly amazing meals with friends, including some very nostalgic ones of Montreal bagels with lox, and smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz's!

Boston: Love
wonderful to see my brother, sis-in-law and two little nieces

L.A.: Pray
Pray that something good comes of the contacts I made at the SCBWI conference!! More on this later! :-)

Portland, OR: Love
spending time with parents and friends

I get back to Australia next week and there is so much to tell....

And I'm off...

(this is what my cat was doing tonight to my packed suitcase)

A doodle in my lil book of ideas:

It's about 8cm x 8cm and will be coming with me everywhere on my trip. cute eh?

So... I'm leaving on a jet plane.....

first to the homeland

then to see the little ones

then to the conference

then to see more family

before returning home.

I have no idea if I'll have the chance to blog. If I do, I will. But if not, forgive me, and wish me luck! :-)

g'day.... remember me?

Hi... just a little post to say yes I am still here.

I have had some V.I.P.s visiting for the last two months (my parents, from USA), and have been busy making memories.

Here are some places we visited together:

clockwise from top: blue mountains, aboriginal paintings, sculptures above Broken Hill, blue mountains, Murray River (near Mildura)

So.... I'm aware there hasn't been much illustration on this blog lately. sorry about that. I've still been doing lots, I just can't show it to you yet! But I promise to post some more interesting things soon, perhaps after I have finished illustrating my current book (3 weeks left - eek!)

hope you are well out there in bloggy land...
over and out,
for now.

Bringing Spain to Sunshine

We finally finished painting our lounge room - and my mural! Here are some pics:

(you can't really tell but the birds are a dark blue)
The design is inspired by our trip to Spain, especially Seville and its oranges. The two bird sculptures on the mantlepiece were my 'payment' for selling this fish painting in my friend's store (I need to do two more paintings for her ASAP, just in time for Christmas!)

So, now that the lounge is finished, we are painting our entranceway! And I had so much fun doing the mural, I think I might have to do another one - perhaps japanese-inspired this time...

Bloggy break

Well I guess it's probably obvious from my lack of posting that I am taking a little bloggy break. I'm don't know how long for, but I'll be back soon I'm sure. Working on Surprise! was quite intense along with a job and other commitments, so I am enjoying having a bit of free time, seeing my husband and friends, and painting other things... like my house! Will get to that one soon. I plan to paint a mural or two so will give you a good ol' before and after once I get there.

But until then, I leave you with this: our mexican bliss from our travels last year. ahhhh, mexico....

Surprise Monday : Week 11 -PLUS- 21 days creative exercise: Day 16

I've decided to combine my Suprise Monday, where I give an update on the progress of my current children's book, with my 21 days creative exercise post, because they sort of ran together today.

I must (ashmedly) admit that I haven't been able to keep up with the 21 days exercise - Some days, I just don't get into the studio at all, but then other days, I am able to play for longer than 15 minutes. Does that count? I don't think so. You're supposed to do it EVERY DAY. Sorry... :-(

, I HAVE been doing it every day I'm in the studio though. As I've said before it really works for me to use it as a warm up. but today, something else happened...

And I don't have much I can show you from the book at the moment, (even though i've been working hard!) - I just don't want to give too much away. But I wanted to talk about the creative process and just how fluid and beautiful it can be. I'm always amazed when things jump out at me from the page, almost telling me what I should be doing with them, or reminding me that they are there, and that's what happened today.

I was working on the title for the book which I am doing by hand, and in trying a few different styles, I tried my beautiful japanese brush with ink:
It just isn't the right feel for the book. But in doing this I squirted out waaay too much ink, and didn't want to waste it, so I grabbed some scrap paper and just started playing around. I have this little painting of bamboo that I got in San Francisco and tried copying it.

I took one japanese calligraphy class ages ago, and I loved it, and this reminded me about the beauty, the simplicity of monotone colour and quick strokes. Not thinking so much, just doing. It's another thing I'd like to get back to and play with. all in good time....

But I guess it was just another reminder to go with those little whims, like I did the other week with the collage for the book, because you never know where it is going to take you, and all of a sudden you have added another dimension to your work, or you are going in a completely different direction than you thought you would be or should be, and that is the fun of creating!

I just want to say thank you to everyone for all of your comments, and I'm so sorry I haven't been able to make the rounds lately... I can't wait to get a bit more time to check in on what you've all been doing!! Happy creating everyone! :)

SCBWI New York catch up

Well I'm back from the big apple. I had hoped to do a big write-up/sketch-up of the conference but very punctually lost my notebook on the last day! But thankfully, Leeza has pretty much covered everything, and she even did it live - yes, direct blogging from the conference, so go check it out!

So instead I'll just write some general thoughts, which is probably better anyway.

I think the best thing about the whole weekend was meeting fantastic illustrators, some of whom I knew already from bloggy land, namely Courtney, Jannie (aka chickengirl), the aforementioned Leeza, Jennifer E. Morris, and Monica.
And it was an absolute and total pleasure to meet and spend most of the weekend with the wonderful Alicia Padron. It was one of those meetings that you just know will feed a friendship for years to come. :-) I feel very lucky (and slightly unworthy!) to be rubbing shoulders with these great gals, so thanks for a wonderful weekend ladies! I hope we meet again soon. LA conference 2009, perhaps??

And the other best thing was hearing totally inspirational out-of-this-world speakers. I realised that having only started illustration after moving to Australia, I don't know many contemporary american illustrators... so it was a treat to discover, most of all, David Wiesner. His specialty is the wordless picturebook, and when you see his illustrations you can understand why. Not only is his art absolutely incredible, but his concepts are completely original and just so creative. He showed his entire process from initial thumbnail sketches through to polished finished art. He'd also show things like how he went through a dozen different cover ideas for Flotsam before arriving at 'the one'. His way of working reminds me a bit of Shaun Tan, who has also just come out with a wordless picture book. I bet they'd love being stuck on a deserted island together.

If it's one piece of advice I take away, from hearing panels discuss the market trends to what publishers are looking for in an illustrator, it's that they want to hear what YOU have to say, in YOUR way. they look for illustrations of QUALITY. a book of quality will sell itself.

Here are some other highlights of the SCBWI conference for me:
-Seeing fellow illustrator's inspiring folios, in a big circle of about a dozen in the hallway of the Hilton (until they kicked us out)
-Walking from the conference down to Times Square for a coffee on a break
-Hearing speakers Nikki Grimes (poet) Carolyn Mackler (YA writer) and Susan Patron (fiction writer) speak - realising that they speak like what they write.
- laughing at Harry Bliss's dry wit as he non-chalantly flips through all his new yorker cover art.
- yummy food (especially cheesecake) at the Saturday brunch
- picking up some great books: Wiesner's Flotsam and FINALLY Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz, which every aspiring book illustrator must have. One other thing I learned from the conference is that all good work takes time. You can't expect to create a masterpiece in an afternoon - even David Wiesner had to go through a dozen cover illos to find the right one! it's okay if you don't get it right the first time, you just have to keep going... so I figure I know I want to write/illustrate a book someday, even though I don't feel ready for it yet. But i'd might as well start thinking about it.... so I got Uri's book and it's great - I'm halfway through it already!

These were all the great things about the conference. In other ways, I must say I was disappointed. I found that overall, everything was focussed more on writers than illustrators, and geared towards more established illustrators at that. Not much time was spent on how to break into the market, which is where most people were coming from, from what I could tell. I was told that the LA conference in August is much more workshoppy and hands-on that way, so I think I might shoot for that next time (which is actually easier for me to get to anyway!)

That said, I can't even imagine how much work it was to put together something like that with registration, 3 days of speakers, 1000 people attending, food for everyone, etc. so well done to all the organisers! - thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some of the girls have been saying they've got the post-conference blues. I think I got them WHILE I was there. Our little evening of casual folio viewing sent me into a headspin because the quality of everyone's work was so high - the self-doubt, "what am I doing here" thoughts started skulking into the corners. Luckily, my best buddy from Montreal arrived that night so a quick margarita fixed that!

But back home now I must admit I am feeling better. I know I still have a long way to go but I am excited to work hard and take baby steps down my path. It's the journey that matters after all, and what a fun one it is. You just can't let the fear grip you you know? you just have to keep going at it. When the 11th cover idea doesn't work, just try the 12th.

Since I don't have any of my sketches from the conference, I'll leave you with what I drew on the front of my portfolio, which i think is apt:

I-F: Plain

It's plain to see that love is in the air!

This is going to be a wedding present for a friend of mine.

I'm really enjoying the combination of acrylics and collage. This has collaged bits of an old book and also Japanese washi paper. I'm pretty happy with it - I just hope the newlyweds are too!

I've started doing little colour sketches for my paintings in my moleskine before i do the real thing - it helps me think about how i want to use colour in the piece and i find it really helpful... thought you might like to see..

This piece is also going to be the last addition for my folio for the NY SCWBI conference. (I leave in exactly a week! and still so much to do!)

News and more news

This has been an amazing year - when I think of everything that's happened - a 4 month round-the-world trip, buying our first house, and now...

My very talented musician husband won a blues competition with a very talented singer friend of his - and the prize is that they get flown to Memphis at the end of Jan for another competition there! so of course I have to go too. AND, it just so happens that the WEEKEND AFTER his competition is THIS:

so I can't be that close at exactly the right time and not go can I? No, I can't. So I'm going! I registered today. Even though I don't have my plane tickets yet, I AM GOING TO NEW YORK! (in February. BRrrrRR!!) and if you're going, let me know... because I will know no one. (eek!)

So that is very exciting. and moving into our new house in 2 weeks is very exciting also. But I must admit I've surprised myself with how emotional I've been so far, packing up and leaving our rental for the last 5 years. Usually, I love change. (It is as good as a holiday, after all) But I am really sad to leave our little house, with it's gorgeous courtyard, situated 1 block from Sydney Road which offers anything you could ever need - delis, cafes, beer gardens, book shops, art supply stores... everything really. I'll miss it. I'll miss waving to Todd at La Paloma as I pass by, who makes the best sandwiches and coffee ever. I'll miss hearing our deaf Greek neighbours argue through the walls (when they're probably just talking about what to have for dinner). I'll miss walking around the corner to one of the best pubs in Melbourne.

Don't get me wrong, I'm terribly excited about our new house - making it ours, not having to hide the cat for house inspections, painting, decorating, creating a garden.... I'm so excited to be able to express ourselves into the place that we live in. But I have been sighing a lot while I've started the big pack up today.

Life is so bittersweet isn't it?

Thinking, not doing.

How did it get to Thursday evening already? I've been thinking all week about what I'd do for IF's 'momentum' but I guess I haven't had much of it myself this week. whole days seem to fly by in a flurry of meetings with clients, househunting, and thinking about all the things I should be doing instead. darn.

Well, to counteract that at least a little, here is my next series of travel photos: Dogs & Cats. (See the first series, Doors & Windows here.)

these are all from our little mexican paradise, San Augustinillo - a tiny little fishing village on the southern coast of mexico where we found a dreamy hut, a hammock, great fish, and a lot of dogs. some of them are scarily skinny, but most seem to be pretty happy playing in the sand.

The top two cats were also from San Augustinillo - I just caught that first one at the right time, and the 2nd one seemed to be in the same position on that chair every day.
bottom left puddycat was in a shop window in Paris, and I got told off by the shopowner for taking a photo in her store. when I said it was just for the cat, not the products, she told me off even more! one of those people who proves the stereotype i guess?
The last one was at a butterfly and flower farm in West Texas. one very chilled out cat. i love the black cat against the white chair.

next series: inspiring art!

Travel Photos: Doors & Windows

I did one or two series of photos while we were travelling, here is the first one that I had fun with...
The above doors are all from Santa Fe, New Mexico. I love the look of the bright turquoise against the terracotta buildings, which was everywhere there. I want my studio to be all iron and terracotta!

1. Taos, New Mexico 2. Paris, France 3. Oaxaca, Mexico

Clockwise from top left: 1. Santa Fe, New Mexico 2. Genova, Italy 3. Zurich, Switzerland 4. Paris, France. I have to agree with the last one - life is beautiful.

next series: Dogs & Cats

Home again home again....

I'm home. I almost can't quite believe it. 4 months of travelling, having completely new experiences, meeting amazing people again or for the first time, trying new foods, being blown away by incredible music and art, exploring, adventures unplanned, surprises and sooo many good times and great memories...... and now it's all over. it's a bit of a spin out to be back to the same old-same old. as nice as the comforts of home and a bit of routine are.... I was in JAPAN last week!!

But I have to say it is nice to be back to my studio, cold and wintry though it is. The one major issue we've had to deal with on our return is that we have to move out of our house because the landlord has decided he wants to move back in. and we've been trying to decide... do we rent again or do we buy? can we buy? going crazy with house inspections and bank managers, trying to figure out if it's all possible. not exactly the relaxing welcome home we were hoping for, but maybe it's the bit of excitement we needed to avoid the post-travel blues :-)

A few nice things on an illustration front though are that I was accepted to the stylefile which I applied for before I left. It is a great resource for publishers to find australian illustrators so I'm very glad to be a part of it. Also the Illustrators Australia website is up so I need to get my stuff on that as well.

but until then here are the last sketches from my travelling moleskine:
we went to a park/zoo near our friends' house in Gothenberg and saw some moose! they're such funny creatures.

Japan was fantastic and we definitely didn't have enough time there. I am 100% going back there someday, maybe to study, who knows?

and that's all she wrote folks! The end of my travel sketches. thanks to anyone who might have been checking in along the way, hope you enjoyed them, I certainly enjoyed making them and it's such a great record of our trip now (along with the 26 CD's full of photos and videos of course!)



we've been skipping through countries lately..... from France to Italy, one night in Switzerland and now in Sweden.

it's all been about visiting friends so it's a great part of the trip. I met some of Andy's friends in Genova,Italy who I have been hearing stories about for years; we met some friends of mine in Zurich who I know from travelling around Australia together years ago; now we are with some mutual friends in Gothenberg for a week.
next stop (and last stop) is Japan for our friend's wedding. I love Japanese art and aesthetic so I'm really excited to go there for that reason (as well of the wedding of course!)

it's hard to believe that our 4 months of travelling is almost over. it's going to be great to get back home, to my bed, my studio, and some semblance of healthy eating again! but at the same time I don't want this trip to ever end. "real" life seems so far away, but it's going to slap me in the face pretty soon!!

but for the moment I still have a week to go so yipee!

here are some recent sketches:

Paris french onion soup

Genova, Italy - I loved how all the buildings were painted pink and yellow, such beautiful meditteranean colours. it was funny on the train to zurich to see how all the bright colours changed to brown and grey the farther away from the sun and sea we were.

One of our friends here is Sweden grew up on farmland and we went to visit her hometown and lots of cows and woolly sheep. this picture was inspired partly by a children's book i bought where sheep were done with just splotches of paint (will post about the books I bought when I get home) and also because I had made a dark smudge on this page by accident, so turned the smudge into fingerprint cows! Fun!

my next post might be from home!!xx

Montreal to Paris

well the whirlwind tour continues and now we are in europe. we slunk through boston and the beach at provincetown, rocked through Montreal, and now we are in drizzly (but beautiful) Paris. We are enjoying some lazy time recuperating after not much sleep in Montreal for a week, and some major jet lag, but still enjoying all that this great city has to offer...
here are some sketches from the last little while:

flowers, done at the beach in Provincetown, Massachewsetts where we rented a little cottage with my family for a week. I'm not sure why this image popped into my head - maybe some tourist's hawaiian shirt.

done on the plane from Montreal to Paris. We had such a great time in Montreal, from giving Andy the full tour of 'my life' (house where I grew up, the municipal pool, my first school, etc...) to staying out dancing with friends to street festivals and amazing food - it was a great trip, and hard to really sum up. The green mound in the middle is Mount Royal - a mountain in the middle of the city with a cross on top, a but like New York's central park (but on a smaller scale). We climbed it one day and got a great view of the city.

Montmartre, Paris. where it all began. Andy and I met here 11 years ago, and we are staying in the same hostel where we met! we even cooked the same dinner that we remembered cooking together in 1996! (paella out of a box) it's been another run down memory lane and it's been incredible and a bit bizarre. who knows where we'll be in another 11 years...!
please also see my post for this week's illustration friday word 'camouflage'...

USA to Mexico and back again.

Hello from Boston! It's been a while since I've posted. it's pretty crazy, this travelling thing. Planes, buses, subways, hostels, packing, unpacking, carrying, lifting, navigating, maps.... oy vay! and that's just getting there! we've had a fantastic time but it's nice to once again have a bit of break from all that, as we are now at my brother's house in Boston and able to draw a breath. (in between entertaining my 2 year old niece, that is. at least she takes naps!)

so here are some of the sketches I've done along the way that I haven't had a chance to post. also please see the next post for this week's illustration friday. enjoy!

1. roadtrip across the states

2. first sketch in mexico. many of the ancient pyramids were built according to the moon and sun

3. dia de los muertos - a very important day in Mexico

4. love cactus

5. back to the US - New York windows

I-F: My Paradise

We just went to paradise 2 weeks ago. In the south of Mexico, in a tiny little fishing town called San Augustinillo, we found it.

a breezy open-air cabana, warm weather and warm water, a comfortable bed and hammock, soft sand and fresh fish, and where the turtles now swim freely.

San Augustinillo once relied on the poaching of turtles ('tortugas' in spanish) as its main commerce, until it was banned in the early 90's. they had to find some other way to make a living, so tourism became very important, and that's why we were able to find a dreamy little cabana by the beach in a town most Mexicans haven't even heard of. we were there for 5 days, but we could have stayed there forever.

i did these sketches of 'tortugas' there (among others) while swinging in the hammock, and while Andy composed music on our little deck. it was, decidedly, paradise.

Time flies

Hi again! Well we've been packing it in since I last posted, so it's been hard to find time to sketch let alone to write posts! So here is another sketch from San Fran on a typically foggy day (with collaged paper from the cool art store I found in SF):

from there we went to Las Vegas where we met up with my friend Dan and got to see the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show "Love" which was amazing, and an unexpected turn to the trip! No time for a sketch unfortunately.

From the city of lights and glitz and phony, we went to the other extreme of camping at the grand canyon. it was really cold and we weren't prepared for it, but it was fun anyway. The grand canyon is so incredible. I've been once before but it still blew me away. Here's a quick sketch from our hike around the southern rim:

we also hiked down into it the next day which was really cool.

Then it was on to New Mexico - I've been wanting to come to NM for years. I am still working on these sketches so I'll post those a bit later.

Then we went to Austin, Texas and stayed with some friends of my parents'. But, my parents surprised us by opening the door when we arrived! So that was another unexpected turn to the trip! we enjoyed lots of days and nights eating and drinking and finding great live music with them. It's been fantastic! Andy made some great music contacts and i did no sketches :-(

But now we're in New Orleans where we are staying for 3 weeks to see the jazz festival and for Andy to get his fill of New O music. I'll hopefully have a bit more time to complete sketches and do other posts from here. It's funny, New Orleans has always been our end destination of this road trip and we've been super excited to get here, but now it's almost a bit sad because it means our road trip is over. 4300 miles, 6 states... mountain passes, snow, desert, forests, rivers, lakes, cities, country towns, truck stops, and even a cop chase texas-style!... we've seen a lot of this amazing country. i want to keep going! I've been gone almost 6 weeks already and I can't believe it. Time is flying...


*it should now work to click on thumbnails for a closer view