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‘Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know.’ Alan Watts.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

Have you ever had a go at one of those inkblot tests?  You know—when you stare at an inkblot and then have to describe what you see within in it . . .  a bat . . . or two people kissing . . . or monsters devouring the earth?  After this week I really hope I am never in a position where I have to do one of these tests for any medical or psychological reason because I am pretty sure I would fail dismally . . . 

One of my homework assignments for my ‘Imagining’ course this week was working with ink-blots.  ‘Oh what fun’—you might think.  ‘Simple’—you might think.  Splash a bit of ink on your page, blow it around a bit and then use your imagination to create some fantastic image.  Sigh.

Well, I now have pages and pages of ink blots (as well as ink spray up the kitchen walls, across the sink and even on the floor—a can of compressed air rather than a straw for the ‘blowing’ seemed such a good idea at the time) but, alas, not much else to show you.   My fellow classmates produced some of the most elaborate, astounding, fanciful (and one or two slightly disturbing) images I have ever seen.  Me?  Mostly all I saw was inkblots.

This using-your-imagination lark makes my head ache . . .

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Colours are the smiles of nature.’ Leigh Hunt.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

If that statement is true this tree is as happy as they come . . .

The rainbow eucalyptus or Mindanao gum is one of those trees that you don’t really believe exists until you see it for yourself.  The  bark is the tree’s most distinctive feature. Patches of bark are shed annually showing a bright green inner bark. This then darkens and matures to give blue, purple, orange and then maroon tones. The previous season’s bark peels off in strips to reveal a brightly colored new bark below. The peeling process results in vertical streaks of red, orange, green, blue, and gray.

A very smiley tree . . .

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘OK, this is a secret, but I think that nursery rhymes are the most relaxing and fun songs.’ Karisma Kapoor.

Last Sunday Maudie came to me and dropped her little black Sheep onto my lap.  It’s not what you’re thinking.  She has not suddenly chosen Sheep to be a replacement for her beloved (and rapidly disintegrating) Ball.  Nor did she even want to play.  It’s just that, on occasion, Maudie will appear at my side carrying one of her many (many) toys and nudge me with it until I take it from her. Once I have done so (and thanked her profusely) she will smile happily and wander away.  I am not sure why she does this. Perhaps she just thinks I look like I need a toy to play with  . . .

Anyway, on this particular occasion I decided to indulge her and play with her toy. Or at least make a quick sketch of it, which is kind of like playing.  As I sketched, I sang the old nursery rhyme ‘Baa baa black sheep . . . ‘ to Maudie (she likes me to sing to her—honest) and that set me to wondering . . . is there anyone around who doesn’t know that nursery rhyme?  I mean, it feels like it’s been around for.ev.ah.  (Well, not quite.  I looked it up.  It was first published in 1744 in what is believed to be the earliest surviving collection of nursery rhymes—’Tommy Thumbs Pretty Song Book’.  Perhaps forever’ was overstating it somewhat.  Suffice to say it’s been around a loooong time.)

I remember hearing a while back that there was talk of banning this nursery rhyme in some kindergartens because of it’s ‘racist’ overtones.  Well, I am not even going to go there (good grief) but when I researched where the rhyme originated it seems that it was actually written as a bit of a diatribe on the harsh tax on wool in feudal England—one-third would be taken for the king and nobility, and one-third for the church, which consequently left very little for the farmers . . . or the little shepherd boy ‘who lives down the lane’.

On further reading I discovered that other nursery rhymes (like many fairy tales) also had pretty gruesome origins. Take the lovely ‘Mary Mary quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells And pretty maids all in a row’.  Sounds like a lovely little ditty about a girl and her garden doesn’t it?  Nope.  Many believe the original Mary to be the Catholic Queen ‘Bloody Mary’ and her garden was actually a graveyard which she filled with unlucky Protestants.  The ‘silver bells and cockle shells’ were instruments of torture and the ‘. . . pretty maids (or maidens) all in a row . . .’ were guillotines!  Lovely.

And there’s ‘Ring around the Rosy, a pocketful of posies. . .’  What harm could there possibly be in that?  Well, only that you might actually be singing about the symptoms of the bubonic plague which included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin. People often filled their pockets with sweet smelling herbs (posies) due to the belief that the disease could be spread by bad smells.  ‘Ashes, ashes, we all fall down . . . ‘  Eeerk.

After reading a few more of these origin stories I have decided I am not going to do at any more research on this subject.  Karisma Kapoor’s ‘relaxing and fun songs’ now seem a tad disturbing to say the least.  I won’t be able to sing nursery rhymes to Maudie ever again without wondering what the hell I am really singing about.  Never mind.  I’ll go back to my old standard instead.

There couldn’t possibly be any troubling undertones in ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine . . . ‘  Could there???

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Life is simple. Just add water.’ Anon.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Ahhhh.  If only that were true . . .

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.’ E. O. Wilson.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

The same could be said of seed pods—if you have seen one, you have definitely not seen them all . . .

I have absolutely no idea what kind of pods these are.  They look a bit like gumnuts, but as I am notoriously bad at identifying plants (and birds . . . and fish . . . and any song written after 1980 . . . ) I am not even going to hazard a guess.

Suffice to say that I had previously given fair warning that there might be more seed-pod sketches in your viewing future, so here you go . . .

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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“. . . and remember, the next scream you hear may be your own!” The Birds. (1963)

Well, it’s definitely Spring—the girls and I have just been ‘swooped’ by our first cranky magpie . . .

For the average Australian that statement needs no further explanation.  Australia—Land of deadly snakes, humungous spiders, man-eating sharks . . . and homicidal magpies.  September and October is swooping season for the native magpie. This black-and-white bird with the spooky red eyes can become highly aggressive during the nesting season, attacking anything it feels poses a threat to its chicks. The fact that anything that isn’t another magpie is usually blissfully unaware there are even any chicks in the area is obviously totally irrelevant to the average man-of-the-house -magpie . . .  

Signs are already appearing around the place warning people of aggressive birds and I daresay it won’t be long before we also start to see people parading about wearing ice cream containers on their heads, bike helmets with long wavy plastic antennae sticking out of them, or hats with eyes drawn on the back . . .  (Spoiler alert . . . )

Magpies belong to the family Corvidae, which also includes ravens, crows, jackdaws, and jays. They display a range of intelligent behaviors that not only surpass that of other birds, but most mammals as well.  They mate for life, can live up to 20 years in the wild (which I guess is why the ‘teenagers’ stay goofy for so long), form close knit communities and they have the ability to solve complex problems (like how to still get at you in spite of the fact you are wearing a silly hat, a mask, or are hiding under an umbrella!)

Magpies and I have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship.  I love them because they are inquisitive and hilarious (especially when still babies), they sound fabulous when they come and sing to you, and they are wicked smart.  And magpies remember.  That much is clear.  They remember people who have been nice to themand they also remember those who haven’t . . .

You may recall I wrote once about my little magpie family who regularly came tap-tap-tapping at my office door to get their daily treat.  Occasionally, if I saw them before they saw me, I could go outside and call them and Mum and Dad would immediately come gliding gracefully down and the two babies would waddle on their fat little legs towards me, squarking and gurgling with their mouths agape.  They would all four sit happily at my feet as I fed them their treats. Those babies have already moved on but I fully expect Mum and Dad to be back at my office door when their next batch of babies arrives.  (Sally = Food)

But then there was that other incident which happened, not at the office, but in my front garden—the attempted murder of Little Bird.  There is no doubt in my mind that those two magpie youngsters would have killed that little injured bird without a moment’s thought if I had not got in their way.  They were mean and vicious and it took all my courage (and one of my shoes) to face them down and send them screeching on their way.  I can still remember the look one of them gave me as I made off with his prize. That ‘I’m-gonna-get-you-for-this . . . ‘ kind of look.  (Sally = Food-thief and shoe-wielding lunatic . . . )

Remembering that look got me thinking—perhaps the magpie that attacked us today was that same youngster I chased so unceremoniously from my garden and he is now all grown up and bent on revenge! Perhaps he has never met his magpie relatives who live near my office and so they haven’t had the chance to tell him that I really am quite a nice person (‘No—you must be wrong.  Sally’s lovely—and she feeds us.  You must have just caught her on a bad day . . . ‘ ) 

Worse still, perhaps he will never meet them and so never change his mind about me and continue to see me only as a dangerous shoe-tossing mad woman for the next twenty years!!

Gulp.  Suddenly some of those silly head-gear options aren’t looking quite so ridiculous . . .

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature.’ Cicero.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

When I take the girls for their walk in the late afternoon Maudie and I often play ‘ball’ with one of the many banksia seed pods that litter the park floor.  It started because I never remembered to take an actual ball with me when we went out (getting three dogs out of the house with them and me still intact is often enough of a challenge) and continues now because Maudie really does seems to enjoy chasing the pods.  They bounce around at weird angles, are (apparently) eminently chewable, and, if she loses sight of the one I threw, there are plenty more of them lying around to start the game over. (In case you were wondering—Mabel and Molly are above all this sort of nonsense and tend to watch these antics from a disdainful distance.)  

Apart from our game I can’t say I had ever really given the banksia pods much more thought.  When they are lying on the ground amongst the other leaf litter, they don’t seem all that special.  They’re kind of dark and dingy and unremarkable looking.  But, when doing some reading last week about seeds, I also came across some amazing photos of seed-pods and this really opened my eyes to just how extraordinary these banksia pods are.  And beautiful. They have have all sorts of cool nooks and crannies and weird little nobbly-bits . . .

. . . and it’s not just banksias.  I have discovered there are so many amazing seed pods out there (see here for some amazing pics) . . . and it seems completely obvious to me now that I have spent the last 58 years of life walking around with my eyes shut!  How could I not have known about all these gorgeous things before?  And how could I not have sketched them?  Well, Spring’s finally here . . . so no more excuses . . .

(Fair warning.  You may be inundated with sketches of seed pods from now on.  I am completely enamoured . . . )


 
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Posted by on September 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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