Tag Archives: chickens

The Woman, the Chicken and the Grapes

folk tales from frankston

The woman, the chicken and the grapes

There were once a woman and her son who loved chickens.

One day the woman looked at the grapes in her fridge and decided that they were no longer appetising enough for her family to eat. So she and her son took some of the grapes out to feed to the chickens in the garden.

Because the garden was on a steep slope with a hard driveway running through it, the grapes were inclined to roll and the woman and her son laughed in delight to see the chickens run up and down the hill chasing the grapes and one another.

grapes to chickens

But after a short while, the woman noticed that one of the chickens was standing still and jerking its head in an uncomfortable manner. And although her son laughed to see the chicken dancing, the woman saw that this was because the chicken was trying to dislodge a grape that was stuck in its throat.

The boy picked up the chicken and saw that foam was accumulating in its throat as it struggled to breathe. The woman took the chicken and tried to reach a finger down its throat to retrieve the grape. But the throat was too long and too narrow. Then she saw that the bird’s comb was turning blue and that it would soon die if she could not clear its airway. So she gently but firmly blew once down the bird’s throat.

Although this inflated the chicken momentarily in quite a surprising way, it did not dislodge the grape and the boy began to cry. Then the woman in desperation, felt amongst the feathers on the front of the chicken’s neck. She found to her surprise that the grape was very easily detected and she quickly pushed the round lump upwards into the bird’s mouth and out onto the ground where she stamped it flat before another chicken could take it.

The bird began to breathe again and sat contentedly in the woman’s arms as she comforted the boy. Soon the boy stopped crying, and the chicken began scratching around the garden with the others as before.

The next day, the woman saw the remaining grapes in her fridge, which were not good enough for the family to eat, but yet not poor enough to throw onto the compost heap and she said to herself. ‘I will not make the same mistake again. This time I will cut up the grapes so that they do not stick in the chicken’s throat.’ And she pulled out a large chopping board and a very sharp knife and began to slice the grapes.

But the grapes began to roll about the board, and the woman was hard put to cut them without losing them onto the floor. So she held each grape closely and cut them individually saying to herself, ‘a job worth doing is worth doing well’. But holding one grape a little too closely, she accidentally cut off the very tip of her finger and she bled and bled.

The chickens did not mind the blood, nor the tip of the finger. Not a single chicken choked on a grape and there were three eggs in the nesting box that day, each with a yolk as round and yellow as the sun.

Hello studio, hello birds, hello autumn.

It’s the second week of the school holidays and I’m back in the studio today after a busy week with the family. The boys are visiting with their grandparents in the country all this week. And I have no work to show you yet, so I thought I’d just say hi.

I really love the autumn in Victoria. The light is soft and warm with honey tones like a dessert wine. (yum.) It’s the best time of year for closing your eyes and lying in the sun,

Hugo shaking apples down.JPG

for shaking apples from the apple tree,

last water fight of the season.JPG

or for having the Last Great Water Fight of the season.


But in the midst of this mellow finale, the wild birds have been rowdy today for some reason, as they were back in the spring when they were fighting for nesting sites and mates and eating each other’s babies!

This afternoon I saw a kookaburra nearly stun itself by attacking its reflection in our lounge room window, as a grey butcherbird watched closely, waiting for an opportunity. While the kookaburra sat on a branch recovering its composure, the butcherbird (3 flights up) dived down and audibly clouted it on the top of the head. Is that adding insult to injury, or injury to injury? The kookaburra raised its head feathers in lieu of a comb or a finger and looked outraged and rumpled but didn’t pursue.

Our chicken girls weren’t rowdy though. In fact, they were a little alarmed by the swooping and noises in the trees around them when I let them out this afternoon.

chicken conference in driveway.jpg

A chicken conference under the sheokes.

Takara spots a kookaburra.jpg

Takara demonstrates her funky chicken dance as three kookaburras overhead cause some concern with their noisy display. 

fluff balls eating south african food.jpg

Our two Salmon Faverolles, Takara and Cressida Cowell eating peanuts in the driveway. Takara (on the left) has started laying and hence the big, red comb. Cressida is a late bloomer and a big, fat baby who galumphs about tripping over her ugg boots. She is by far our largest and heaviest chicken and at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s amusing to watch tiny Storm scold her whilst barely reaching up to Cressida’s fluffy chin at full stretch. 


Meanwhile, back in the studio, for want of new artwork to show you today, here are some of the musicians that didn’t make it through the auditions recently.

They don’t mind. They have a regular gig down at The Swamp on Thursday nights.

swing band.jpg

Here are a pair of cockatoos do-si-doing. They are going to try to squeeze into a spread for Leonard Doesn’t Dance tomorrow.

20-21 dancers 3.jpeg

My drawing board now that the sun has gone down,

drawing board.jpg

My black Cornish Rex inkwell,

Cornish Rex ink well.jpg

and last of all, something that isn’t here yet. The Squirrel. A wood fired stove that will soon be warming my studio. Woohoo! 



Bookplates – just for fun (part 2)

So here are my two quick bookplate designs. Unlike Hugo, my preliminary work was limited to one doodle in blue pencil. I then progressed straight into ‘make it up as you go along’, my strongest medium.

bookplate prelimiinary doodle judywatsonart

Wanting to play quite loosely with patches of colour, I used watercolour without any particular structure or organisation. Then I added ink with brush and dip pen, acrylic (to cover up the bits I didn’t like on the wing) and went for it with some lettering. I left it scanning while I started on a second one.

Bookplate2 judywatsonart stage 1

The second one was only black ink and dip pen with lots of splodgy bits. I scanned it before adding more texture, to give myself a way of going back. undo. (Am I the only one who mentally presses Command Z when I miss a turn off in the car? It doesn’t work.)

Bookplate judywatsonart stage 1

Then I took it back to the drawing board and added some very important dots and scratchy bits. (Chickens scratch. It’s symbolic, right?) Then I scanned it again. (undo)

Bookplate judywatsonart stage 2

Then I took it back to the drawing board for some wash, and scanned it a third time. (Actually, I blow-dried it first, and then scanned it and found it was wobbly, and then put it in the book press for 2 hours while I drove to school and back and then scanned it again, but that’s probably too much detail.)

Bookplate judywatsonart stage 3

Then I took it into PhotoShop and added some colour. Although it may have been better in black and white, it was too much fun not to add colour. (This process involved lots of undos.)

Bookplate judywatsonart tonal chookie

Then I went back to my first chicken; all loose and free and doing her own arty-farty, happy thing. And I had to mess with her. Cramp her style.

I desaturated her, taking her back to a sepia tone, then added very limited digital colour. She squawked in protest, but I took no notice. I told her firmly, ‘less is more… sometimes… Not when it comes to eggs, you understand.’ She gave me that bright beady-eyed look and then we sent the bookplates off to print.

The other chicken had been asleep through the whole process.

sepia chicken judywatsonart lores

Pecking Order

I’m feeling rather exhausted this evening. So I drew our chickens to give myself a lift. I started the beginnings of a pecking order diagram. I’m quite fascinated by how this might be done, because the order is not linear in any clear sense. Below is the Official Order. But there are weird aberrations in the middle where certain chickens are scared of other chickens. And there’s one vicious triangle… Hmmm.

Those two devilish looking youngsters at the bottom will grow larger than all the rest. I have therefore introduced them to the flock as babies so that their elders can keep them in their place before they grow unwieldy in size. (According to what I have read, pecking orders rarely change once established… unless the circumstances are unusual and special and particularly particular…)

But according to what I have read, pecking orders follow a simple linear hierarchy.

In my experience this is not the case.

chicken pecking order colour flat

On a secondary note, I’m sure you will be pleased to know that I have now had all my chickens expertly colour analysed by an image consultant. So they will never, NEVER be seen looking anything but their best when they go out to parties. I can vouch for this without a doubt.

Vita, surprisingly, is a summer. But we did not establish which kind of summer. This is because, as Annabel pointed out, the rules of colour may be different for chickens! Well that’s awkward! Now we’ll have to write a book about it!

Hilda is a deep winter, Poppy is a warm autumn, Stella is a deep autumn, Storm is a soft summer and so is Nora. The Terrible Pteranodon Twins are cool winters. Their legs are green and so will be their eggs one day.

Weather fragments

weather fragment 2 weather fragment

What a rocky road this picture book has been for me. It looks like it is coming together at last though. Here are some weather fragments to make you feel lucky to be indoors, out of the rain.

selfie lores

Another for the 52-week Illustration Challenge.

Theme for this week, ‘selfie’. I am looking a bit Holly Hobbyish here with a large, collage head of differential calculus hair. It would have looked better with darker hair, but I didn’t want to lose the lovely calculus curves under a heavy load of ink. So I’ve left it lightly tinted.

I liked the way the little numbers and mathematical figures here and there remind me of insects or seeds that the chickens are constantly seeking.

The smooth paper of a vintage book reacts completely differently from the way proper watercolour paper should react to paint. But there’s something rather nice about it. It  sucks up the ink in a thirsty way, remaining very smooth and composed all the while.

Scott discovered the word ‘groke’ the other day. We all like it in this house and think it deserves constant and affectionate use. It reminds us of Tove Jansson‘s Groke and it means this: to ‘stare at someone in the hope that they’ll give you some food’. (The Groke in Jansson’s  Moominpappa at Sea visits Moomintroll every night to beg him to show her his lantern flame, because she is a lonely creature craving warmth and light but unable to get either. So it’s a poignant form of groking after all.)

With six pampered chickens and a dog, we get plenty of groking around here. Speaking of which, better go and lock the girls up.

Books read in 2013

I had a few more completed books yet to add. It’s not the end of the year yet is it?? But Goodreads seems to have wrapped it up for me with an email showing me all my listed books from this year in a splendid array. Here they are.

Books 2013 part 1.jpg Books 2013 part 2.jpg Books 2013 part 3

It’s rather lovely to look at them all lined up like that in ‘cover view’. There are some happy highlights that catch my eye, and bring back memories:

• The very first book on the list (at bottom) The King of Slippery Falls – a gentle American coming of age story with a subtle magical element

Soonchild – a sophisticated swan song from Russell Hoban with illustrations by Alexis Deacon;

The ACB with Honora Lee – which was shelved at the library as young adult but was really a charming junior fiction novel. (I kept waiting for something gritty to happen. It wasn’t gritty, but nevertheless told some touching truths.)

The Children of the King – thanks Kezza for this recommendation. Beautiful writing doesn’t come much more beautiful.

• Re-reading the two Alan Garner Tales of Alderley, and then unexpectedly, the new release third book! Golly, that was exciting!

The Sunday Books – a written narrative for Mervyn Peake’s drawings made for his children.

• Anne Fadiman’s At Large and at Small – grown up literary delight

• Re-reading The Shrinking of Treehorn – subtle irony and social comment in a visual format

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat – Hugo recommended it. I finally got around to reading it. So glad I did. Life of Pi meets Waiting for Godot as junior fiction.

• Bob Graham soars the heights with A Bus Called Heaven – what a brilliant, positive social comment. So much to think about and discuss. So much to look at.

• Caught up with the boys on Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon books. Up to speed. Waiting for the last book to be published! Aaaah!

• Discovered Isabelle Arsenault via Sally Rippin with Jane, the Fox and Me. Lovely!

• Got around to tackling Lloyd Alexander who was languishing on my shelf. What a wonderful experience! Chronicles of Prydain are a tween / young adult delight, and I loved his autobiographical The Fantastical Adventures of the Invisible Boy.

On a Beam of Light, A story of Albert Einstein – picture book splendour and inspiration for budding young scientists, non-conformists and thinkers.

Count Karlstein – Phillip Pullman’s novelisation of his own early play written for his students to perform at school. A gothic ripping yarn, brimming with humour, personality, drama and… brimstone!

Jackie French’s Chook Book – from a woman with a big heart. An Australian guide to keeping chickens with humanity and thoroughness. It’s not easy to find good Australian back-yard poultry keeping books. (Our climate and other particular challenges require local information, not overseas info, and the available breeds are different.) I have since been lucky to be given a new book from ABC Books The Contented Chook. The combination of these two books should clear up most questions about keeping chickens at home. The former is honest and detailed, and the latter is sumptuous, with many lovely photographs and condensed, practical text.

• Some terrific graphic novels, including The Gigantic Beard that was Evil, and Hope Larson’s version of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

• The pleasure of re-reading my old fave, Whispering in the Wind by Alan Marshall.

• And the delight of reading the work of another vintage Marshall – James Marshall’s George and Martha: the Complete Stories of Two Best Friends.

Chicken supermodels: art by the grade 2s

But wait! There’s more!

Hugo came home with a box of chocolates, two thank you cards (one from the art teacher  – a lovely hand-made one) and a whole book of thank you letters! One from each child in grade 2. Wow! I feel privileged! These are originals! I had such a lovely time going through this book. These teachers are wonderful. They are teaching the children to think creatively, to draw, to write, and to have impeccable manners. (or should that be unpeckable?)

I was going to include just a few, but couldn’t decide between them. They are so wonderfully full of variety and individual style. Here they all are.


cover art by Hugo :-)

chicken thank you - Tanner

Tanner recognises a queen when he sees one. He also draws fabulous computer chairs.

chicken thank you - Sonia

No need for a photo. You can tell exactly what Poppy and Hilda look like from this

chicken thank you - Shuta

Shuta must be a scientist. He added a wonderful life cycle.

chicken thank you - Shanae

Shanae has drawn the girls chatting amiably together. Wish I knew what they were saying. It looks like it might have been funny.

chicken thank you - Shaedyn

Shaedyn has put so much work into this. Just look at those interlocking tail feathers and that delicate feathering!

chicken thank you - Ryan

Ryan has noticed a most important thing – the water bowl. He has also done some lovely work with overlaid colour to get the effect of the subtle colouring.

chicken thank you - Riya

Riya is very interested in animals of all kinds. She obviously worked hard to observe and draw the chickens and their environment and wrote a wonderfully descriptive letter.

chicken thank you - maybe Jesse

This letter is anonymous but very energetic. I get a sense of the whole class surrounding the cage. Something nobody else drew.

chicken thank you - Luke G

Poppy has a magical presence in this drawing! She is filling the whole cage with her majesty. It almost looks as though she is appearing between the curtains of a stage.

chicken thank you - Lucas

Lucas has carefully observed those decorated tail feathers, the shaggy leg feathers and all of the other details of the cage environment.

chicken thank you - Leah

Leah is a sensitive child like both of my boys. I can tell that she has worked very hard to get this drawing right and perhaps was not happy with it in the end. Leah, it is lovely! Also, this letter is very special as it is the only one addressed to Hilda and Poppy.

chicken thank you - Kai

Wow! Kai has created a distinctive design with his composition. (It would make a nice postage stamp.) Look at those interesting tail feathers, each ending in an arrow point, rather like a dragon.

chicken thank you - Jack D

I love the honesty of Jack’s letter and the effort he has put into his work. He has recognised the rounded shapes that make up a Pekin chicken and drawn the overlaid sections of feathering.

chicken thank you - Hannah

Some beautiful, bold drawings of chickens echoing each other’s shapes in contrasting colours. Lovely!

chicken thank you - Georgia

Georgia is so enthusiastic. She has put careful observation and effort into her drawing of the perch as well as the chickens themselves.

chicken thank you - Fiona

Fiona’s gorgeous girls are almost Manga in style. They have tails like flames. They are a celebration!

chicken thank you - Elyse

Elyse has done a wonderfully confident drawing. Her pencil marks are assured and strong, her shapes lovely.

chicken thank you - Ella

Ella’s chicken characters are so Hilda and Poppy, they make me smile. Hilda is industriously tidying the straw, and Poppy is sitting above and thinking Poppy thoughts… somewhat akin to Woody Allen thoughts, I suspect. ‘This perch feels like it’s about to break… Hilda will blame me… she always blames me…I think I’m going to lay an egg… everybody is looking at me. How embarrassing…’

chicken thank you - Eliza

Eliza wins the prize for drawing most accurately those delicate partridge patterned feathers on Poppy. She has also captured that special alertness that chickens have with their bright and beady eyes.

chicken thank you - Ebony

Wow! This is a drawing but also an illustration that tells a story. Poppy has been busy building a nest to sit in, and Hilda is standing on guard at the top of the pile of straw. Ebony has even given her letter a decorative border.

chicken thank you - Dylan

Dylan is a keen sportsman. I’m not surprised that he has taken care to draw those running legs. The chickens look as though they are ready to get out of the cage and do a bit of running around in the sun.

chicken thank you - Declan

Declan has wonderfully drawn the rounded shape of a Pekin. It’s mostly fluff. (They look funny when they’re wet) And he’s also carefully drawn the drinker.

chicken thank you - Daniel

Daniel has done some great work with his free lines and even given some great background patterning, suggestive of straw. Daniel and Declan both came up to me in the corridor with shining eyes to tell me about their day with the chickens.

chicken thank you - Daniel G

This Daniel has chickens at home. I wonder if this familiarity accounts for the confidence of his drawing? He has done a very large, bold rendering.

chicken thank you - Dakota

Dakota is a great character. I’m not surprised she recognised another (smaller) character in Hilda :-)

chicken thank you - Charlotte

Charlotte has worked so hard on this drawing and expressed the honey gold glory of the straw like a flame.

chicken thank you - Bryce

Bryce liked the way the chickens moved around. I wonder what he would have done with an animation :-)

chicken thank you - Bianca

Bianca has created her own individual characters here. They are sparkling with personality.

chicken thank you - Amy

Amy has done a sensitive rendering with wonderful, delicate use of black on black, with a hint of warmth in the wings.

chicken thank you - Aahliah

Aahliah obviously loved the chicken visit so much. They will have to come again :-) Notice the ghost chickens in the background, peeping forwards at the viewer. Aahliah must have decided that the profile view was irresistible, with opportunities for drawing feather patterning.

Strange chickens and illustrated packages

3G parcel Last night I had the pleasure of painting a thank you card for a thank you card… The sort of thing you only do for fun, or for children. (In this case both. A grade 3 class at my children’s school sent me a handmade card thanking me for some books I had sent their way instead of to the op shop.)

I’ve been lucky enough to receive a fair few hand-made cards, (my family often hand-make their birthday cards) and illustrated parcels too (thanks Ann). Even sometimes hand-decorated wrapping paper. (lucky me!)

They give so much pleasure – sometimes even more than what is inside the parcel. The first sight of an illustrated parcel on the doorstep or in your lap, with the handwriting of someone you love, just makes your day.

large chicken parcel - no address

Having five funny chickens in my life (with legs much shorter than those illustrated!), and a few bottles of Noodlers ink on the drawing board has prompted two strange chicken decorations in the last week. What will be next?

Here are some decorated envelopes sent from celebrated illustrators to publisher Klaus Flügge. How nice it would be to receive something as wonderful as this! But all of us can illustrate packages in our own way. Hooray!

Exel Sheffler envelope