Tag Archives: collage

Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by me. Published by Walker Books Australia, 2019. I’m thrilled that this book has been shortlisted for the Eve Pownall award for information books, CBCA Book of the Year awards 2020.

Hello! I hope you are getting some time outdoors, even if it’s to dig around in a little bit of garden or a pot plant. Or walking around the block with your dog, or cat, or ferret. Every time I go outside and breath some outdoor air I feel so much better.

Searching for Cicadas was recently shortlisted for an award. Hooray! I have never been shortlisted for a CBCA award before so I didn’t realise I would be getting emails with interview questions. Today I had to get myself organised and answer some of them and one of the questions was:

“What are your top tips for parents who might be teaching their kids at home with this book?”

That’s a big question, and it would take me about a week to answer, so instead, I suggested an activity for kids and parents. It’s based on the endpapers for the book. (Here are the endpapers, below.)

Making the endpapers was the most fun part of illustrating ‘Searching for Cicadas’. It’s no secret that I love endpapers.

Because people might like to skip my chatting and get straight to the activity, I will upload it as a separate blog post. As soon as it is uploaded (tomorrow) I will add the link here.

You can make the activity as simple or as complex as you like. It will be suitable for all ages. Take an hour, or take a week on it. Budding field naturalists may like to make a life of it, and if they do, I send them a big hug.

I will endeavour to edit the activity as I receive feedback from teachers.

Here I am

After the longest time!

Hi there. I’ve missed you. Work on Leonard Doesn’t Dance is going well. And I’m also working on another exciting project. A picture book by Sofie Laguna called When You’re Older. It’s a bit tricky working on two; just when I’m submerged deeply in one, I have to haul myself out by the scruff of the neck and focus on the other. But it’s fine, because both are lovely books.

Leonard and his pigeon friends are learning the can-can. I can’t do the can-can. (I might yet learn… A fake leg might be helpful.) But pigeons can can-can.

Here’s a small section of what I’m working on today. The background is in progress so the yellow area is sketched in. And all around what you see here are plants and other birds and a couple of beasts. But this is one of the white pages. The full colour pages look different.

Leonard and the Can-can pigeons

Detail of the can-can page from Leonard Doesn’t Dance by Frances Watts

They look like this.

Leonard colour page sample

Detail from a full colour page as the sun sets in Leonard’s world.

I’m using a big mix of media in this book. I’m printmaking, painting, drawing, collaging and digitising. (I’m doing the same for When You’re Older, but with a different colour palette.)

The printmaking is the most fun part. There’s something so intoxicating about printmaking. When the outcome is uncertain, due to the variability of the process, you are always on the brink of something… and it could be wonderful. It could be a treasure. Those op-shoppers among you will understand the feeling as it’s rather similar.

The print below is saved to my computer with the ignominious title ‘Disappointing Flowers’. But once colour and collage treatment are added, it actually works very well.

‘Disappointing Flowers’

This is a quick mock-up showing how the application of colour and a trim here and there, bring a disappointing print into a context that works. At least, for me. It’s not from the book.

A quick digital collage of my disappointing flowers to see if they rise to the challenge.

This one I was truly delighted with. It’s such a simple pattern, printed with a single block and roughly aligned. The roughness appeals to my deepest instincts in a way that nothing tidy or perfect can do. And the print has become a raw material like a delicious cheese that I might put into some cooking.

repeat pattern lores

Rough, ready and rambunctious, this print appeals to me like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

And here are some of the inky painted areas I’m using. These too, will be barely recognisable when I’ve finished colouring and ornamenting them on the computer, but for me, the shapes produced with a brush have more animation than anything I can draw directly on the screen.

8-9 tree shapes lores

Inky tree shapes for Leonard Doesn’t Dance… Or maybe for When You’re Older.

Now it’s back to the page. Some ducks are calling for my attention.

Yes. I think some of them are Call Ducks.



Here’s Ophelia, my wee scrap of a girl who appeared when I was working on my Imago Mundi canvas. She found a home this evening on an even tinier canvas. This one is 7cm x 10cm. 

Imago Mundi

The Imago Mundi web site says:

Art is born from a complex direct relationship with its surroundings and culture.
Imago Mundi’s ambition is to unite these diversities of our world in a common frame of artistic expression.

I am lucky that a friend opened the door for me to participate in this wonderful international exhibition. (Thanks Juliet)

Here is my tiny canvas for Imago Mundi.

women in politics judywatsonart 2015

‘Seen and not Heard’ (dedicated to Gillian Triggs)

I’m endlessly fascinated with vintage cabinet card portraits, so this came out of that space, and also from my interest in the cladding of women under layers and layers of ornament. There is a drawn woman under the coat. It’s a strange thing to add layers of clothing to a drawn woman and slowly hide her from view. (Something I explored earlier here.)

But I was also thinking of Professor Gillian Triggs trying to be heard in the Australian Federal Government arena as I made this artwork.

It’s made with acrylic paint, indian ink, felt tip, watercolour and collaged book pages on a very small canvas.

scraps of girls who will go somewhere else

scraps of girls who will go somewhere else


Dancing Eucalyptus Sprite

In a cruciform posture…

eucalyptus leaf sprite judywatsonart lores

Well I finished Thunderstorm Dancing today. Hooray!

But the marketing department want a completely different cover. Not hooray!

I didn’t feel like celebrating this evening. But I was determined to get a last minute picture into the 52 Week Illustration Challenge, which finishes each theme on a Tuesday with a new one starting the next day. I’d had the idea of leaf rubbings making a dress earlier in the week. But I wasn’t going to render it like this. This just came out of somewhere… But I’m really pleased with it.

It’s the colour palette from Thunderstorm Dancing. And it’s dancing. But the everything else is very different. It’s a nice change for me. I noticed the cruciform shape when I found I wanted to highlight the hands and feet.


Sewjourn (part 2) – Bird Mania

I doodled, sketched, painted and chopped many birds at Sewjourn. Here are a few.

The jacket was time consuming and almost took one full day in the studio (bearing in mind that the culinary arts are also a big part of our Sewjourn weekend, so there is a fairly lengthy lunch-break in the middle of the day).

Choosing projects is a big decision when the time is limited to 2 precious days. A big project can be satisfying but takes a big slab of the time. Doing many small projects is also very satisfying. The important thing for me is to make some decision, because staring in confusion at a list of projects is not at all satisfying!

The Doodle Birds were a quick little play and very small, but I also had a lovely time preparing for them, by embellishing book pages with a range of inks and paints to make the patterns for their plumage.

Apologies for the poor photographs. I was so focused on creating that I didn’t take the time to set up proper photos, and much was not photographed at all. In fact I didn’t even make it to the wonderful book shop on the Lancefield main street, and I usually love to support them and buy a few treats for myself or others while I am there.

collage doodle bird

Bird collage doodle

collage doodle birds

Bird collage doodles canoodle

jacket - painted bird

A white jacket I have been meaning to paint or deface in some way for over two years. Now well on its way with a back panel full of painted birds

jacket- painted bird 2

My favourite jacket bird. I like the simplicity of outline, form and colour.


Another little collage bird

Another little collage bird. Actually the creases are not obvious in the real thing. It doesn’t like to be squished in the scanner though.

Paper Dolls

I’m not sure where this paper doll process is going in an artistic context. It’s a bit like heading off for a walk with a lot on your mind, but no actual destination. Some of the thoughts that were in my mind at the time included:

• Children love dressing paper dolls. It’s fun.

Jane ARden wardrobe

• Men have been dressing women for centuries, shaping them into an art-form irresistibly pleasing to their eyes. I can see why.

• Women have also participated. Some Chinese women broke their own daughter’s feet and bound them until well into the 20th century. (How did they feel about that?) Modern woman sometimes chooses to totter on high heels (me too), making herself both physically and psychologically vulnerable.

• People have participated in a similar art-form breeding dogs (and other animals) for a particular look. Sometimes when breeding didn’t perfect the look, they trimmed off bits of the animal.

• Men and women have done the same thing with flowers and fruit trees. Sometimes we have lost some of the original flavours or genetic material altogether.

This may all sound very sombre and didactic. But really I was just playing around on the drawing board for a few minutes, and the thoughts going through my head fed into what I was doing.

I took some inspiration from Swiss fashion of the early 19th century and sketched a woman (very loosely) and began to dress her. Piece by piece.

It’s definitely fun. And as with all my hare-brained wanderings, it’s very messy.

Did she look better before or after she was clothed in bulky layers? She certainly looked different after the clothes were added.

Don’t we change ourselves so much, with what we wear?

blob tone

blob tone

The woman

The natural woman

My lines have made her doll-like. I’m not sure that was deliberate. I was still in continuous line-drawing mode, so this was a big part of it.

a bit of red for a skirt

a bit of red for a skirt

skirt hands

skirt and tunic added

whole woman slip

still looking fairly natural

head and torso slip

still a fairly timeless woman

piece by piece she is clothed

adding the ornamentation that begins to create the look, the shape of a particular time and place

whole woman no sleeves

piece by piece she is decked out



whole woman near completion wet

I haven’t done her shoes yet. I didn’t have any black paper. Perhaps this little bit of freedom I will leave her with. Feet on solid earth.


skirt with blood red wet crepe paper.

head and torso near completion wet

wet with glue, weighed down with drapery

bare head

Phew. That was fun. Now I’m going to have a shower and get into my soft stretch cotton pyjamas.



Cornish Rex (again)

The finished head

The finished head – because he is three dimensional (or at least high relief) he looks different from different angles.

Cornish Wraps…
Cornish Rips…

Whatever, it’s Cornish again. And he’s made with crumpled brown paper sandwich bags. I think this medium could be a lot of fun to pursue in all sorts of directions. This is actually a ‘card’ for Dad’s birthday. A kind of weird card perhaps, but it comes with lots of love.

It wasn’t completely out of the blue. I started using a variation on this method a couple of weeks ago to produce a puppet for the Puppet Challenge. I’ll post on that as well. I love the feel and flexibility of the crumpled paper. It’s soft and flexible but has enough stiffness to have a bit of expression of its own that it contributes to the shapes you make.

So here’s how he was made.

After thoroughly crumpling and squishing a few brown paper bags until they began to soften in my hands, I started folding here and there until a face emerged (a bit like playing with blobs) and then added a daub of glue here and there to hold sections in place.

I started with the head. The corners of the paper lunch bag practically made the cat's ears on their own.

I started with the head. The corners of the paper lunch bag practically made the cat’s ears on their own.

The flat nose piece is (from memory) a separate piece glued on top of the architecture of the nose and upper jaw. I liked the way the edges of the bag where there is a fine zig-zag cut are reminiscent of the curly coat of the Cornish Rex. So I made use of it on the cat’s wrinkled brow.

He now has a neck

He now has a neck, and mouth

A body begins to emerge

A body begins to emerge

legs and tail

legs and tail – not particularly happy with these, but no time for second takes

The application of ink was a little rushed because I was due at Dad's birthday lunch in a few minutes

The application of ink was a little rushed because I was due at Dad’s birthday lunch in a few minutes

I added the eyes. I wanted them to contrast with the rest in their bold blockiness, not crumpled at all. The Cornish has huge glossy eyes.

I added the eyes. I wanted them to contrast with the rest in their bold blockiness, not crumpled at all. A Cornish Rex has huge, glossy eyes. I didn’t quite get the effect I wanted, but it had to do for now. He does look alert, I think.

Lastly, he had a quick toasting in front of the fan heater and then we had to leave for birthday celebrations. The hugs and kisses were added later with the waitresses’ black texta :-)

toasting by the fan heater

toasting by the fan heater

Happy (belated) Birthday Dad. xxxx




Equine Soliloquy (continued)

I haven’t touched this project for a while. But the 52 Week Illustration Challenge theme for this week is ‘horse’ so it seemed a good reason to do some more doodles in the horse book. Most of these were done in brush pen during the hour of the kids drama class, but I’ve worked them up a little more at home today.

Horse alive, horse dead

Horse alive, horse dead

snowy squiggle horses

snowy squiggle horses

The front horse was drawn with photographic reference in front of me. The rear two emerged on their own. I like the freer, more pattern-like quality of the rear two horses, but quite like the very typical attitude of the foreground horse’s head. The two types don’t really go together but it’s a point of interest for me.

I enjoy this squiggle style of drawing. I find I do it more and more. It’s fun to let my hand (seemingly) control itself and wander very rapidly all over the page.

equine soliloquy hunched horse

Little scraggy wild horse

This is the brush pen I used quite a bit for the Cornish Soliloquy. I must buy a couple more. They are very interesting to work with. The ink doesn’t flow very quickly so they tend to get a bit affronted by my drawing style. I draw pretty quickly and the ink flow goes on strike and demands a breather every minute or so.

wild horse, captured horse

wild horse, captured horse

I was really pleased with the way this little sketch worked out. I strangely like the way the gutter interferes with the horse’s hind quarters, and I  liked the cream, blue, burnt umber colour palette.

Anzac Day war horse

Anzac Day war horse

This was an accident really. I was dissatisfied with the original sketch on the left hand side of the skeleton horse spread, and cut this black horse silhouette out very quickly to place over it. In the meantime, I painted out some protruding bits on the other page to give myself a fairly blank canvas. But this led to a new sketch on that page, and hence no need for the cutout horse.

So he went onto a new page, and I started randomly embellishing him. I started with the halter, but war horses and Anzac Day were at the back of my mind and I started putting tassels and other structures into the picture (from an outdated botanical diary). Before I knew it the background had gone smokey, fiery and the final touches were some poppies and botanical bombs in the air. The bombs also remind me of a holy trinity of sorts, but since I am not religious, they are primarily bombs… or just fruit.

I seem to have returned to muted tones for the time being.