Shanghai chai

Tea in Shanghai - 1

And here is journal number two, Shanghai Chai.

In the grand old tradition of Western-made chinoiserie, it’s a little bit of a hodge-podge of Oriental stereotypes, rather than anything correctly Shanghainese. Awkward cultural appropriations, I’m sorry…the journal has more in common with this Manhattan Transfer song (but then, that’s Singapore…what a dog’s breakfast I am making of this!) than real places.

These babies are ready to go to Finland.

Tea in Shanghai - 4

Tea in Shanghai - 2

Tea in Shanghai - 3

Tea in Helsinki…

Helsinki tea time

Here’s the completed made-to-order journal, incorporating those painted dishes I showed in the last blog post.

Helsinki tea time

Such a headache coming up with a background color that suited! Painted several canvas backgrounds…all much too dark and detailed. This one, though perhaps still busy, is lighter and softer. Pink is never the color I try out first…it just doesn’t occur to me. (How unlike the feminine and fun work of Hanna Anderson, where pink is the foundation for nearly everything!) But I’m happy to give it the stage if it does the job, and it has saved the day, here.

Helsinki tea time

Helsinki tea time

My Finnish patroness wanted two journals: number two will be out from under the book press tomorrow. Then I CAN FINALLY PACK AWAY MY PAINTS AND BOOKBINDING GEAR! These are pretty much the bindery’s last books before the trip.

Woo hoo!

Departure date

9 November 2014

Looked up flights to Manila from Darwin last night (I am stopping by to see my Dad before I head to S. Africa) and they’ve gone up $150 since last week. Pushed by the steadily rising prices of the Christmas season, I bought a seat on the last flight that was under $500: November 23rd, Sunday. After that, prices shoot up another $200.

My Darwin days are numbered. I sure hope immigration issues my passport before the flight date! *nervous, about-to-be-sick laugh*

I spent all last night trying to make a storyboard, for the first time ever, and learn to use some simple video-editing programs, because I’d like videos to be a part of the trip’s creative output. Trying to sync the movie to music was the biggest struggle, but I think I’ve got it figured out now, though that’s only in theory. I don’t know how all you Vimeo Pro Account denizens do it, but I use a stopwatch. LOL Learning a new thing is always exciting, and I’ve recently taken on two new obsessions: watercolours and a GoPro. That’ll keep me busy (and too distracted to be seasick, I hope!) for a long time.

Some changes…

3 November 2014

I finished working for Jacksons Drawing Supplies last Friday. A bittersweet occasion. Wonderful to have tied up that loose end (and feel, more strongly, that things are happening), but I took many a longing, backward glance at that Aladdin’s Cave of art materials that was my “home away from home” for two years. Even harder to say goodbye to the beautiful people who work there—though we haven’t quite parted, yet…there will be a few more get-togethers for “The Jackson Five”, before I actually, physically leave Darwin.

My passport application went in today…two weeks is the usual processing time. Plane tickets right after that. Which means I have two weeks to finish packing, clean the boat up for her next occupant, and get the hell out of here. (Deep, deep, deep inside me, there is a tiny voice screaming at the top of its lungs in panic.) It’s okay, I’ll be ready…if I can stop obsessing over my new blog for a few days, and resist the temptation to drop everything and paint another page in my sketchbook, which is coming along as effortlessly as my luggage and housework are NOT.

3 November 2014

There’s almost nothing left in my ETSY shop…a couple of Kris’ Monsoon Dervish, a handful of his Out of Census, and some Matryoshka journals, maybe half a dozen cards…everything else has been sold, between ETSY shoppers and folks around Darwin who’ve heard I’m leaving. If you bought something from me, recently, THANK YOU! It’s all gone into the savings account for the trip. I actually saved enough to not feel so worried, anymore…a huge load off my mind.

sadgroves creek

27 October 2014


24 October 2014On October 23 I had to stop and reiterate my ideas about keeping a constant sketchbook while traveling.

The day found me pencilling the highlights and shadows of yet another faceted, sparkly glass object…my most ambitious, meticulous and realistic drawing to date. Strangely, the more detailed and exact I made it, the less pleased with it I felt. In fact, flipping back through just the last few days of drawings makes me think of botanical illustrations, of plates done by cataloguers…very conservative depictions, trying as much as possible to convey information, to be faithful to the object’s reality (objective reality?)

There’s a tendency to admire realistic art, but it’s a narcissistic, myopic admiration. What we’re really saying when we ooh and ahh over a drawing that “looks like a photograph” is “This is familiar! I know what it is because that’s exactly the way it looks in life! This work doesn’t push me outside of my comfort zones to leave me standing in the nebulous hinterlands of my lazy mind, or confront me with strange new ideas that I have no socially prescribed reactions for, and so it has my approval!”

For an artist like me, realism is risk-free. It’s safe, it’s popular, it needs no explanations, it doesn’t arouse anger or alienation in the average viewer. It doesn’t reveal very serious things about myself to strangers. It’s the gambit of a cowardly artist.

I don’t like realism in art, but I find realistic drawings relatively easy to do. I’m usually too lazy to work so conscientiously, but I can. The scene is in front of me, after all; I just have to slavishly copy what I see, like the receptor of a digital camera. There are decisions to be made, certainly, like “What color is that really?”, and “What’s the best way to recreate that effect?” But on the whole, it’s all about measuring, identifying, transcribing. The proportions of the object, the perspectives. The greyscale values, from 0% to 100%. The tiniest hint of green in that stainless steel grey. It’s less like art, more like industrial science. There is so little of me in these fastidious renderings.

This is probably why I admire abstract art and expressionism most of all…those works that “present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas”.

These sketchbook studies were intended to develop the habit of doing playful, spontaneous drawings of the world around me. To filter what my eyes see through the way I feel—humorous, joyful, peaceful, loving, fearful, angry, confused, bored, compassionate—and the things I think. They were to please no one but myself, and to document my going, my experiencing…never to produce a catalog of mundane objects, accurately recorded, painstakingly detailed, and that any camera could record better than I.

Hence this page, and the reminder to get back (off the beaten) track.

T2 + ◌

22 October 2014
The tea ball was a challenge…the not-quite-solid surface, and that moiré effect when you look through the mesh…still think I could have done it better, maybe I’ll try again in a few days.

Those ‘shadows’…could’ve left those out. *swift mental kick in the butt*.
Have to learn when to quit…to know when it is enough, and let it be.

Dragon’s Breath

21 October 2014About an hour to do…it’s getting easier, and addictive. Hard to stop at just one, I could spend the whole day doing this.

I will have to move on from painting glass bottles, eventually…and from still objects, in general. Need to work on moving subjects: people, animals; need to work on buildings, landscapes, if I want to sketch busy travel scenes. Soon, soon.

But for now I’ve turned to my kitchen for subject matter. Dragon’s Breath, a chilli-infused butterscotch liqueur. Can hardly taste the chilli, and liqueurs are much too sweet for my liking. Mainly, I use it in place of cognac when making coq au vin.