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‘Emus live in pairs, or alone, or in groups. They mostly feed at night . . . or during the day.’ Russell Coight.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I like emus.  I just thought I’d put that out there right up front.  Remember what I’ve said in the past about critters with attitude?  Well, cue the emu.  They are cool dudes.  And although I thought I knew quite a bit about them in general, while searching for a quote to go with my sketch this week (quotes about emus are extremely hard to come by I might add) I was surprised to learn a whole lot more about these wonderful quirky creatures . . .

Things I already knew:
Emus are big.  The emu is the second largest bird in the world (the largest being the ostrich).    Emus can stand from 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 in) in height and weigh between 18-60 kgs (40-132 lbs).
Emus are flightless.  They have very small, almost useless wings.
Emus are fast.  They have very long, very strong legs.  When at a full run their stride can be almost 9 feet long and they can sprint up to around 48 km (30mph).
Emus are long-lived.  Emus can live 10-20 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity.
Emus are curious. Anyone who has ever been to a wildlife sanctuary will know they have a tendency to sneak up behind you and look over your shoulder to see what you are doing (and to see if you are eating something you might be encouraged to share . . . )
Emus make weird noises.  Emus have a pouch in their throat which, when inflated, allows them to make deep booming or drumming sounds which can be heard up to 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) away.  (Apparently they can also issue a rather blood-curdling hiss . . . )

Things I didn’t know:
Emus have 2 sets of eyelids—one set for blinking and the other to keep out dust.
Emus can jump.  Apparently their strong legs also allow the birds to jump up to 2.1 metres (7 feet) straight up.  (How freaky is that!)
They are good swimmers and like to play in water (and mud) (I have to say that until now it never occurred to me to even think of an emu having a fun day at the beach.)
Emus have no teeth so they swallow small stones and pebbles into the gizzard which help to grind up and digest their food.  (Tasty!)
Australia once declared war on emus.  (Say what?)

I’ll say that again.  Australia once went to war with the emus.  Seriously.  It became known as ‘The Great Emu War of 1932’  . . .

Stay with me.   At the end of the First World War returning Australian soldiers and a number of British veterans, were given land by the Australian government to take up farming in Western Australia.  With the onset of the great depression the government encouraged these farmers to increase their wheat crops, promising assistance in the form of subsidies.  However, wheat prices continued to fall, the government failed to deliver on the promised subsidies, and things became increasingly tense as the farmers prepared to harvest, while also threatening to refuse to deliver the wheat.

The farmers’ woes were exacerbated by the arrival of up to 20,000 emus who descended on the area as part of their breeding season and (yahoo!) found the abundance of food and water now available to them beyond their wildest dreams.  They proceeded to rampage enthusiastically around the district damaging crops and fences, eating everything they could get their birdy beaks around and causing general mayhem.

The besieged farmers relayed their concerns to the government (quite forcefully I imagine) and the government obligingly sent the army in to sort the problem out.  It was soon discovered that taking single pot shots at the offending emus was having little effect (apparently the emus realised quite early on that if they stayed just far enough away the guns weren’t accurate enough to hit them) and so, on further pressing, the Australian Minister of Defense then gave the soldiers access to . . .  wait for it . . . machine guns . . .  (I swear I am not making this up . . . )

Long story short—several military assaults were then launched upon the errant emus, with less than spectacular results.  The maurauding critters proved far trickier than anyone anticipated (seems they tend to scatter and flee in all directions when threatened, instead of patiently standing in a crowd waiting to be mown down) and after a very short space of time (and some seriously scathing reports in the media) the government decided it was all a bit too embarrassing and withdrew their troops.

So there you go.  The emus had won the war.  This might go a long way towards explaining why many of us today have never even heard about this bizarre little slice of Aussie history . . .  and why all emus still seem to possess that same smug mess-with-me-if-you-dare stare  . . .

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.’ Douglas Adams.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

There is no earthly reason for this post this week other than a funny quote and an excuse for me to sketch a cute duckling.  Well, that and the fact that the last couple of weeks has finally brought us some long awaited and much needed rain.

That old expression ‘Fine weather for ducks!’ seems wholly appropriate . . .

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” A.A. Milne.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I recently saw the new movie ‘Christopher Robin’.  It was (perhaps predictably) very sweet (although not sickly sweet enough as to cause a sugar coma) and, as an early and adoring reader of A.A Milne (especially the poems . . . ‘I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name . . . ‘) evoked nostalgic memories of happy times I spent along with C.R. and his friends on their many rambling adventures around the Hundred Acre Wood . . .

Now I know that movies are movies and real life is real life and movies (more often than not) take diabolical liberties with the truth (the real Christopher Robin was probably turning in his grave) but the one thing I especially liked about this movie was that all the little critters actually looked like the real toys I had always imagined them to be, rather than the prettied up Disney versions that have so eclipsed E.H. Shepard’s wonderful original drawings.

Pooh and Piglet and Tigger and Eeyore (‘ . . . it’s not much of a tail but I’m sort of attached to it . . . ‘)  were all a little careworn and grubby and frayed around the edges—just as any much-loved childhood toy should be.

Below is (most obviously, I hope) not a sketch of that most beloved and humble Winnie.  It is, however, a sketch of another bear who carries the same telltale scars of being on the receiving end of a lifetime of deep love and devotion . . .

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Pink isn’t just a color, it’s an attitude!’ Miley Cyrus.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . .

When I pulled into my driveway a couple of days ago I was greeted by a largeand extremely rowdyflock of pink and gray galahs foraging for their supper on my front lawn.  I am not sure whether they had been rowdy for as long as they had been there, or whether they just became so when I drove in, but they certainly weren’t backwards in coming forwards in venting their feelings about my untimely intrusion  . . .

I think that is one of reasons I like them so much.  I love critters with ‘attitude’ (as if you hadn’t guessed) and galahs really have that.  In spades.

Being mostly pink just kicks things up another notch . . .

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Perfect is the enemy of good.’ Volatire.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

One of the (many) issues I have when sketching is knowing when to stop.  If I am not entirely happy with where my sketch is going (and, let’s face it, I rarely am) I will inevitably end up tinkering and fussing with it, ad nauseam, in a vain attempt to ‘get it right’.  Of course I never do get it right and, quite often, I make it worse . . .

Last month, in an attempt to get over myself in this regard, I took a short online Sktchy course called ‘Make Your Mark’ run by artist Joan Martin.   The course appealed to me because I was told I would be using materials and techniques I had probably not used before and this would, hopefully, force my work to become looser and more expressive.  It would also, I was promised, teach me to learn to accept the limitations of the materials I was using, and become more creative with my ‘mistakes’.

And, as far as I am concerned, the course delivered on its promises.  Although I did use some materials I had used before (paints, inks, pencils etc ) I also used them in ways I hadn’t tried before.  For instance, I have sketched with biros quite often but I had never sketched with a great big fat marker pen in one hand and a biro in the other—using both hands at the same time!  That was trippy.  It just about did my head in and the results were somewhat bizarre to say the least!  In other exercises I moved paint around with the edges of credit cards or torn up cardboard and I painted with pipettes and feathers and string.  I even used candle wax . . .

The sketch below began as an exercise where we were asked to scrub an ordinary white wax candle randomly across our paper.  This formed a barrier of resistance (in varying degrees) across the page—and consequently did really weird things with the graphite and pens I tried to use over the top of it.  (I nearly wore a hole in the paper trying to get doggo’s nose right!)  However, as promised, it also produced some really cool, unexpected results . . .

Was I entirely happy with all (any?) of the sketches I produced while working my way through this course? Not even close (some of them were just plain awful) but there’s no denying I learned a lot.  And it was fun to try out some new techniques and materials.   I feel I’ve become a tad more adventurous and a little more accepting of my own abilities.

As to that ‘knowing when to stop’ issue—well, I’m still working on that.  Perhaps this old dog and I can teach each other a few new tricks  . . .

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Orchids were not made by an ideal engineer; they are jury-rigged from a limited set of available components.’ Stephen Jay Gould.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

The girls and I found a little fairy glen when we were out walking this week.  While taking a not-often-used shortcut through a little bush track, amongst the usual undergrowth of scrub, discarded gumtree bark, fallen acacia pods, roo-poo and other general bush detritus, was a clump of little white orchids.  (At least I think they were some kind of orchid. For all I know about plants they could have just as easily been some type of daisy, but for this post let’s just assume they were orchids . . . )

Orchids, I later discovered, are the largest family of plants in the world. There are apparently 25,00030,000 different species of which at least 10,000 can be found in the tropics alone.  They come in extreme variations of size, weight and colour.  Some orchids are only the size of a small coin when in bloom, while others can weigh up to one ton with petals as long as 30 inches, and sprays of flowers 1214 feet long. Orchid blossoms also appear in almost every colour imaginable, except for true black.

I think this sketch originally started off as being that of an orchid (although not the same species I saw in the bush I hasten to add) but as I was also playing around with colour and texture at the time I am not sure the finished product would ever be recognised as such.  My little wannabe-orchid seemed to become ever more triffid-like as the drawing progressed . . .

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Having a two-year-old is like having a blender that you don’t have a top for.’ Jerry Seinfeld.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

For the past week my girls and I have been playing host to a lovely wee dog called ‘Cinder’.  I am not sure Cindy is quite two years old yet (she might be just short of that) but I have to say, after living in her exuberant wake for the past week, I reckon Jerry Seinfeld’s blender analogy is spot on . . .

Cindy has stayed with us before but not for a whole week and I was a little concerned about how that would go.  Earlier visits had only been for a weekend or a few days and I had been at home to supervise.  This time I was going to be out working for a good part of her visit, and, as anyone who has fur-children knows full-well, you are never entirely sure what’s going on at home when you’re not around.

I tried to prepare my girls for Cindy’s impending arrival with constant reminders‘Cindy’s coming to stay for a while.  You remember Cindy, don’t you?  She’s a lovely girl.  You liked Cindy . . . ‘ so they had plenty of time to brace themselves but, unfortunately, as little dogs are wont to do, they often hear only what they want to hear.  The look my my Mabel gave me when Cindy actually launched herself through our front door . . .

Now don’t misunderstand me, Cindy is a lovely girl and a very sweet-natured dog.  She’s polite, affectionate and well-mannered and there isn’t a mean bone in her body, but my girls are all grown up now (I still can’t quite believe they are all now classed as ‘senior’ dogs) and they like their little routines and their quiet life . . . and I guess we had all kind of forgotten just how much energy a young dog can have!

Take going for a walk, for instance.  Walking my girls these days consists of a short saunter to the park where I let them off their leads so they can bimble about in the undergrowth and check out (and pee on) all the new smells that have been deposited since our last visit, followed by a slow wander home.  It’s all quite sedate.  Not so this week . . .

I quickly discovered I couldn’t let Cindy off her lead at all.  I did try once, in the early early morning when there was nobody else around and I imagined there would be less to distract her.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Apparently anything can distract you when you are not quite 2.  I spent the next 30 minutes trying to coax her to come back to me.  She would come juuuust within reach and then . . .  whoosh . . .  she was galloping off again, laughing madly as she went.  Cindy thought that was the BEST.GAME.EVER.  

(I, on the other hand, was terrified she would fixate on something really exciting and head off into the swamp . . . or the river . . . or across the road and down the street  . . . and I’d be left having to explain the dire consequences to her mum!)

But, differing energy levels aside, it was a good week.  My initial concerns about leaving Cindy alone in the house with my girls all day proved to be unfounded.  Apart from a couple of thoroughly deconstructed and de-stuffed doggie toys (it’s astonishing to me how much stuffing can come out of one little toy) and, on one occasion, coming home to a rather wild-eyed and ruffled Molly (who Cindy occasionally tried to use as her own personal squeaker toy) there were no major dust-ups or dramas and yesterday Cindy was delivered, happy, excited (and unharmed) back to her mother.

Today we are almost back in routine.  Most of the debris has been cleared away (although I am still finding stuffing in the oddest places), special favourite toys (which I had, thankfully, the foresight to store safely away before our visitor arrived) have been returned and much needed nap-time has been (and, in some cases, is still being) caught up on.

It’s all good.

Cindy—resting after from one of her romps around the park.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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