Tag Archives: kick-about

Kick-About #38 Algae

I don’t know why I love this crab so much.

The prompt for the 38th Kick-About is one of Matisse’s lovely cut-outs, titled White Alga on Orange and Red Background. I’m a big fan of drawing with scissors as Matisse described it. But I didn’t pick up the scissors. For one thing, the bees kept swarming! Three more times. I mean, crikey! We have managed to capture each of the swarms. (Today I noticed that the neighbour‘s bees are swarming. I‘m letting that lot go.)

We now have not one hive, but four. The smallest swarm was successfully reunited with the original hive. I have learned so much in a fortnight! Because I absolutely can’t help myself, I have begun the process of naming the four hives after fictional places. (Scott argues in favour of One, Two, Three and Four. *sigh*)

The original hive is three boxes high, was neglected for the last few years, and became overpopulated. It’s no longer neglected or overpopulated, but it’s still tall. It is going to be either Gormenghast, or AnkhMorpork. Both are very appealing, so we will continue thinking about that.

The smallest new hive is called Dagobah. It’s getting supplementary feeding with sugar syrup. Some of those bees fell in the stormwater drain while we were bringing them down from an overhanging branch. I fished them out of the water with a net but things didn’t look good for the piles of cold, soggy bees on the ground and dark was falling, with rain forecast. (Told you we have been learning…) However, the next day when the sun reached them, they began to recover and almost all of them rose up in reincarnated glory and returned to the colony. After this swampy experience, the name seemed obvious. (There are several Star Wars fanatics in this household.)

The original swarm from my previous post is a Thing of Glory! It is buzzing and growing and brimming with pollen and nectar. Cells are filling with larvae as new bees are created. Hugo has named this hive Sanctaphrax. Perhaps he feels this new hive will be a home of intellectual pursuit and heroic deeds. At any rate, it’s a great opportunity to honour his favourite book series.

This only leaves one hive unnamed. It is middle sized and thriving. It has had a lucky beginning, in that we donated brood from the old city to help them build their new colony. I could name it Serendipity, but it has to be a fictional place. So we will think some more on that one.

Once again, I am talking more about bees than art! What is going on?

This is an accurate reflection of my world just at present, but it’s probably time to mention that as soon I saw the prompt for the Kick-About I thought of seaweed, (not bees) and in particular I thought of the seaweed I painted for When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna; the book I have just finished illustrating.

There are several pages featuring the sea in this book, and in three of them I took the opportunity to create underwater scenes full of colourful seaweed. So when I was working on ideas for the endpapers, one of them featured crabs and seaweed. I never finished this concept, because it didn’t seem as apt as some of the other ideas, but after spending a whole day painting tiny crabs, and working them into patterns, I did fall in love with the little guy at the top of this post, hiding behind his seaweed. He totally captured my heart. I made a few more little arrangements of crabs, but I wasn’t sure they worked as well when reduced in size.

Crabs. Are you confused? We’re on crabs now. Keep up!

Today I revisited the unfinished endpapers and played around a little bit more. They’re probably nicer on white, but hey.

And here are some small sections of this non-endpaper creation.

Thanks, Phil Gomm, for hosting the Kick-About. (I’m late again!)

Kick-About #37 plus Bees!

The prompt for the 37th Kick-About could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. It’s Peter Mungkuri’s Punu Ngura (2019)

Punu Nura (Country with trees) © Peter Mungkuri, Iwantja Arts. 2019.

From the Yankunytjatjara, Southern Desert region comes this beautiful black and white ink drawing on paper by Peter Mungkuri. I’m glad this prompt was chosen because it has introduced me to Mungkuri’s work, which is perfectly balanced, sumptuously decorative and calmly natural all at the same time. It is well worth a visit to the Art Gallery of NSW website to see a collection of his work. Swoon!

What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened.

Our bees swarmed.

This happened last year and we weren’t prepared. The hive became overcrowded, and half the bees took off to find roomier accommodation. This time, we had not only added an extra box to our existing hive to give them extra space, but we had prepared a separate hive in case they swarmed, and had it ready for the new colony to use. Well, not perfectly ready. The frames were in, with wax and wire for the bees to build on. But I wasn’t completely finished with my exterior paint job.

This is the old hive with a new box added on top. But this colony is thriving and they needed more space than this.
New hive, unfinished. Artist dissatisfied.

This is our new hive in the middle of my paint assault a couple of weeks ago. I had to stop when the paint was so thickly applied that it needed a few hours to dry before I could apply anything more with a brush. Alas, other tasks have called me since then. I hadn’t yet reached a satisfactory conclusion when the bees swarmed.

I should be annoyed. Pesky bees. They sent me no email, no letter and didn’t phone to say they were leaving that day. Just… buzzed off.

But I’m not annoyed. Far from it. My spring day with the bees was uplifting, empowering, mindful and full of joy. So I’m ok with the paint job. In fact, we have installed the bees in the brood box only, so I can tweak the top box before we put it in position. The roof and base are harder to alter… but who knows what might be stealthily achieved at night with a daylight bulb…

So here is what happened in pictures (and just a few words).

We were lucky with the location the bees chose to hang out. They congregated in the empty block next door, just by a storm water outlet, hanging from a conjunction of branches in a Desert Ash. It might have been over the storm water drain. It might have been up too high to reach without a ladder. But they chose a spot just reachable from the ground and just far enough away from the concrete drain that we didn’t risk falling into it. Phew! (I could have done without the blackberry canes though.)

First we suited up. Hugo, sorry about the shut-eye photo. It was you or me. (Blogger’s prerogative.)
Then I sawed through the main branch in order to lift the swarm down to the box. It was a bit tricky because there were several branches tangled together and the bees were dangling lower with every jiggle. The blackberries bit me. They have no respect for bee suits.
We gave the branch a firm shake and most of the bees dropped into the box.
Hugo and I then gently scooped as many bees as we could up and dropped them into the box. Hugo worked out where the queen bees was (inside) and we gently placed the lid on the box, whilst blowing bees out of harm’s way in an undignified manner.
With the tricky part over, we decided to sit in the sunshine (on the handy concrete drain) to watch the bees for a while. Some of the bees were fanning their wings near the entrance on the right. We guessed the queen was on the inside near that point and we were hopeful that all was well.

After this we stepped away and shook the bees off our suits. But then I had to go back to have another look. Just because.

This is what it looked like straight afterwards. The bees were slowly moving towards the entrance and going into the box.
A couple of hours later, almost all were inside the box. We moved them into their proper location beside the other hive after dark and all seems well today.

That evening, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.

In painting it, I was tumbling three things together: what happened last year (they swarmed and disappeared) what happened this year (they swarmed and we were in the middle of it) and what happens every year (we have a dead tree stump that disgorges thousands of tiny moths once a year and they spiral upwards into the sky in the early evening attracting a feeding frenzy of bird life. It is quite the annual spectacle.)

Finished painting. Scanned in 6 parts and assembled.

Thanks again, Phil Gomm, for hosting the Kick-About. Sorry I’m late!

The Kick-About #9 ‘Short Ride in a Fast Machine’

Hello from Locked Down Melbourne. We are a little way off the easing of restrictions, but they are on the horizon. I cleared out and organised my linen cupboard on the weekend. It brought me great comfort. I now realise that we have about 80 pillowcases. Hmmm.

But today was the first day of spring. The hens are laying, the wild birds are fiercely courting, nesting, and engaging in aerial warfare. The garden is in uproar where Scott has been landscaping with giant rocks. The garden is his sandpit. And also his linen cupboard.

Oh yes! The kick-about. This was an inspired choice of prompt. We were to respond to a very lively piece of music, to blow away the cobwebs. In truth, I think I am still stuck in the Kick-About #7 Ennui, but the idea of having energy and the space and freedom to expend it is appealing. I listened to the music while walking around the local nature reserve on a windy, sunny day. It was glorious.

The fast machine was a billy cart in my mind. But that seemed too earthbound. And perhaps due to my caged bird mentality at the moment, my thoughts turned towards flight. Some little ink sketches resulted.

This slightly steampunk, ragged little witch has a broomstick that is a first cousin to a billy cart.

Once again I was planning an animation. But my computer obstinately refuses to export a video file. Phooey!

But I had revisited the work of Eadweard Muybridge earlier in the week when I was drawing running dogs for When You‘re Older.

V0048768 A dog running. Photogravure after Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A dog running. Photogravure after Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. 1887 By: Eadweard Muybridge and University of Pennsylvania.Published: 1887 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

This gave me the idea to arrange my little steampunk witch drawings into a tribute to Muybridge‘s sequence photographs. It was fun. But in the end, I felt they looked better on a plain white background.

Here are a couple of frames from the obdurate animation file.

This last image does not bode ill for my little witch. In the final frame she sits up. I wanted a cheeky smile to emerge. However, when I drew it in, she looked demonic. So I removed. it. Ha ha!

The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’ (part one)

Here we go with another Kick-About prompt from Red’s Kingdom. It comes at a good time. I‘ve been working productively during Melbourne’s two lockdowns on my picture book project When You’re Older*. The project has leapt forward dramatically, which is satisfying, but I needed a little break and a breath of creative fresh air. The disconnectedness and anxiety that many of us are feeling as a result of the pandemic and the world news are pretty wearing, even to an introvert like me.

The prompt is Cicada, and those little creatures are old friends at this stage. I spent two weekends working on this prompt. The first one I spent learning some animation techniques, and my original intention was to make an animation by selecting material from Searching for Cicadas**, either working with some of the unused artwork, or developing a page from the book.

This is the page I’d like to animate. I’ll return to this idea at a later point. He’s such a cute little fellow, I’d like to see him walk across his landscape.

But on the second weekend I wandered in a different direction. It began with thinking about cicadas in a less realistic way and thinking about drawing some She Cicadas in the style of my Metropolis Bird Women. Then I thought about the unique, and seemingly magical qualities of a cicada (in particular, its life cycle and metamorphosis) and how easily cicadas might fit into a fairy or folk tale. I haven‘t written anything like that since The Woman, the Chicken and the Grapes. And it seemed the perfect break from intense illustration work.

A frontispiece for a fairytale that isn’t finished yet.

However, I was forgetting my tendency towards perfectionism (strangely combined with a loathing for neatness, exactness or fussiness), and so, Kick-About time is up and the fairy tale is not complete. But never mind! Here are some images I began for it and I’ll work up the text a little more before posting it.

I love these little cicada nymphs. They are so innocent and purposeful. They provide the perfect foil to an arrogant giant python.
I was aware how much my fairy tale was resembling a Red Riding Hood tale. The significance of the snake (instead of a wolf) was pretty obvious, so I popped my little girl into a reddish tint to refer to the original story. And a hood, of course. But I liked her to be visually quite subtle and hard to make out.
The python drawing, became a bit worrisome actually. Although he was just a 5 minute ink drawing, incised with a wooden skewer, he scanned and turned out a bit too ‘realistic’ for my taste, even after I popped some tattoos on him. I prefer the more stylised fellow on the frontispiece. This is a balancing act I regularly struggle with.
Some wash drawings of my little girl. These are each about 12cm high and some have been tidied up a bit; some haven‘t. The little girl at bottom right was not right for this story as she has a vulnerability in her body language and droopy plaits that is not leading lady material. I liked her little legs though. The girl top left, though leaning backwards in a seemingly defensive posture, is nevertheless communicating a wily strength of character. Is she retreating, or is she subtly reaching behind herself for a possible weapon? So she was worked up very lightly for the scene at the top of this post. The girl with the high hood makes me laugh. She is so contemporary looking with her confident, slouching gait. She’s probably wearing headphones and a ponytail.
Two of the sketches for the frontispiece, before I tidied up the one on the right, just a little.

Cheerio for now. Time to get back to the snowy scenes for When You‘re Older.

*When You‘re Older, written by Sofie Laguna, to be published by Allen and Unwin.
** Searching for Cicadas teaching notes here and you can purchase at your local bookshop. If you are in lockdown and need to buy online, in Australia you can find a local bookshop here or check out this page. If you‘re in the USA there‘s this page and it may include other countries too. Let me know.