Turning water into wine

Amethyst sky

Found this old-school filter (real one, that you attach to a camera lens) in a drawer of camera gear I was cleaning out.

It’s made to counter the greenish tinge of fluorescent lighting, but I found it gives the sunset an intense amethyst glow, and can turn water into wine. Like Jesus. 😉 A miracle.

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The Scarlet Letterbox is moving…

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I’m just a few weeks away from moving The Scarlet Letterbox to Patreon.

I like that artists created Patreon for other artists (Jack Conte is, together with wife Nataly Dawn, one-half of the band Pomplamoose…music that I was somewhat obsessed with, 10 years ago).

As “beautiful monthly letters combining my art and creative writing with postal paraphernalia”, The Scarlet Letterbox is well suited to Patreon’s ‘pay per project’ plan: You can sign up for as little or as long as you want, and pay for each letter, one at a time (rather than several months up front.) It’ll be easier for me to organize each mail-out, because Patreon keeps track of the activity surrounding each letter issue.
letters collagePatreon can help create a better rapport between artists and their supporters.

At the moment, aside from the actual letters, I don’t share much with my subscribers because Etsy is a conventional online marketplace…it wasn’t designed to process recurring payment, or to nurture community. Patreon, on the other hand, is all about community.
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I don’t mean there’s some ready-made crowd of pledge-happy “Patreon community”people waiting for me! Patreon is not a promoter or social media “influencer”; it’s not a team of marketing experts who will selflessly volunteer their time to spread the word about me; it’s not their job to care about what I do, whether I sink or swim. They won’t be getting my work “out there”, or attracting potential patrons to my Patreon page. Patreon is a subscription-based payment processing site. That’s it.

It’s my job to find my own supporters, to spread the word, to advertise, to care and hustle and be passionate about it, and make it grow. In order to make this work properly, I have to dedicate much more time to The Scarlet Letterbox.

an old fashioned letter

As luck would have it, my employers are cutting my work down to 9 hours (about $160) a week. While the pay’s not great, it’s the waste of precious time that really disturbs me. I row, and then cycle, to work: I’ll spend nearly an hour getting there and, before I know it, it’ll be time to cycle and row home again…a two-hour commute in order to work for three. Sometimes the huge tides trap me ashore for half a day, and I have to wait till there’s enough water to float my dinghy. I can’t afford that kind of dead time, sitting on land, waiting for the sea to turn around and come back! It’s not as though I knit!

This is the push I needed to quit my day job and do my own thing, I guess. I can’t fall much lower than the proffered $160 per week, after all…there’s not that much of a distance left to fall! At least, by writing stories, illustrating, painting, embroidering, bookbinding, and creating beautiful letters, I’ll be doing something that I love, full time.

My Patreon page is set to open sometime around the first week of October (which is also my last week at the day job.)

More information on this blog, closer to the date.

Haitian Armada...outgoing mailI hope that if you’ve ever been interested in The Scarlet Letterbox, you’ll consider taking a second look at what I’m doing, now that

fabulous letter = the price of a coffee and croissant, per month

Pineapple II

Pineapple II (Jingdezhen Jar)Pineapple II (Ming-A-Ling), 2018. Acrylics on wood panel.

I collaged an actual tissue paper underglaze decal from China onto the jar…so the image of boys playing chequers is not paint or ink, at all, but blue clay sealed under layers of acrylic medium…

Tissue paper decals are designs made from coloured clay (underglazes) that have been silkscreened onto tissue paper. The tissue designs are laid face-down on unfired clay, moistened on the back, and then the paper is peeled away, leaving a crisp design on the clay, which is then fired in a kiln.


Frai-Pan (Entrée The Dragon), 2018. Acrylic, pencil and ink on wood panel.

My love for the Southeast Asian kitchen was expressing itself in this one…painted in a playful rush, I never meant to show this one to anybody. But I had so few paintings for Tropical Gothic that I gave it a varnish and threw it into the exhibition at the last minute.

Frai-Pan (Entrée The Dragon)


An old one, Sopa de Sirena, painted in Venezuela in 2015, but it has never been shown, so I included it in the Tropical Gothic exhibition.

Sopa de Sirena (Mermaid Soup) is a commentary on the difference between affluent countries, and non-affluent ones. In Australia or the US, a mermaid is a whimsical creature that exists for no other purpose than to be enchanting and to decorate a lot of pearlescent, sequined, glitter-encrusted or holographic merchandise.
Where I was born, and then in Venezuela where I made this, a mermaid would probably have been seen as just one more thing for hungry people to eat. A big fish with lots of meat on it.
As one Mexican visitor to the exhibition opening commented knowingly, “Hay que comer…” (“One must eat…”)

Mermaid Soup


This last painting is called Mouth Wash. I have tried to photograph (and even scan) it several times, and it never turned out. Finally settled for a strangely blurred and milky shot…like there was fog inside my phone’s camera lens, but at least you could see the painting. So then I tried to sharpen the blurred image in a photo editor, and this is what I was left with after I clicked the ‘SAVE’ button: digital distortion. I had saved over the original photo, and accidentally deleted the copy that was on my phone.

Maybe this painting is jinxed. It can hardly be haunted…I used my own mouth as the model for gums and lips (but not the teeth, thank you very much). If it makes it back from the exhibition in one piece, I will try to take another photograph. In the meantime, I rather like this bizarre, striped version…

Mouth Wash, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.

Pineapple I

UntitledThis small painting came out of me in a rush. It took two days, with the idea of the snake replacing the idea of eyes on the evening between the two. It’s good when something is so compelling that the work just flows, and before I can become bored or exasperated with the subject, it’s done.
UntitledIt’s not really as ‘dark’ as it seems…to me, this painting is humorous. I love snakes; I think they’re beautiful and I don’t associate them with anything sinister, biblical, or superstitious. They’re graceful, muscular little reptiles, like lizards, and many have beautiful markings and colours.
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This, and a few other small works of mine, were created for the group show Tropical Gothic: A Selection of Dark Works for Warm Climates. If you’re in Darwin around the time of the festival—and the lights are too bright, the smiles seem mocking, the hubbub is alienating and the town’s party vibes are filling you with a strange sense of weltschmerz—consider yourself invited to our group show. Pineapple I will be hanging in the company of works by my friends Marita Albers, Sandra Kendell, and Sonia Martignon.

Opening night’s on Thursday, August 9th, at 6PM, at Mayfair Gallery in Harriet Place, Darwin CBD.

Tropical Gothic invite

Smoke. Mirrors.

The cloudy dawn stopped to gaze at itself in the mirror-smooth surface of the creek this morning. I snapped it to see if I could capture those reflections.

Moments of grace can be so fleeting …I checked the photo quickly, but by the time I looked to the East again, the vision was gone. A dirty pewter creek and the sky bleaching into day.

One more day at work tomorrow, and then the short Sunday will bear the burden of all my creative frustration before I head back to work on Monday. I don’t know how some people work like this, six days a week, for years!