Monday, 19 December 2011

we're a happy bunch of grumpies here!

Happy Monday everybody!

It's been a brilliantly busy weekend here at Grumpy Star Studio. We were out and about at Parap Markets on Saturday for a bumper pre-Christmas weekend; meeting new faces, talking Fimo and illustration techniques and, best of all, exchanging lots of happy smiles. I'm sure Adam Hills mentions in one of his skits how fabulous and surreal it is to be a comedian- people working in I.T. for example, aren't treated to a clap and a cheer for switching on their computers in the morning, or remembering their passwords (though they should be- I'm still amazed I can find the 'on' button on my beast of a thing, let alone designing programs on it!). Now- don't misunderstand me here- I'll grant you I've learned a sense of wit in my impending 26 years, but people have yet to pay me for telling jokes (or fixing computers). All the same, both of us are fortunate to have jobs that make others just as happy as we are to do them.

Speaking of computers- you might notice a few changes around here. After ten or so hours of tweaking, the blog has been almost completely overhauled and is looking pretty darn nice if I do say so myself! If you click on the button marked 'exhibition' you'll also find a complete inventory of the 30 works that made it into my recent show at Woods Street Gallery, 'Strange Creatures, Sweet Allsorts'. Plans are already in the pipes to add other posts to this list in the coming year, so stay tuned!

And onto the subject of exhibitions, I'm very happy to share with you all that mine and Dave's work is now proudly shown at one of Darwin's best art galleries, Framed. You'll find our lovely lolly necklaces on show in the 'Flower Power' exhibition, run alongside the December show, 'Laughter is the Best Medicine'. Today we dropped off a few of the paintings from the Woods Street show that have yet to find loving homes, so keep your peepers peeled for these, too.

And for all of my lovely supporters out there who have contacted me in the past about buying online- there is lots of work going on behind-the-scenes for the grand opening of our Etsy Shop in early 2012! Hooray!

Hoping you have a brilliant day wherever you might be.
Mel x

Sunday, 11 December 2011

alicia of hearts

Hullo again dear readers!

My show 'Strange Creatures, Sweet Allsorts' has now been hanging merrily for a little over a week, and I am very happy to tell you that it has been received fabulously well! Friends, family and everyone else in between came from all corners of our fair city to support me, wish me well and make my night so wonderful.

After sixteen months of working towards it, it's so satisfying to know I don't honestly feel I could have put on a better debut show. Everything looked so smashing thanks to Paul and Don at Don Whyte Framing, who have spent weeks working with Dave and I comparing and ordering mouldings, talking tonal values, offering framing advice and just generally being wonderful.

To accompany these gorgeously framed pictures, I wrote stories about each of the images and how they came from being ideas in my head to pictures on paper. So many people commented on my writing, which is humbling and wonderful, because I do love words, and it's nice to make good sentences when one can manage it.

Everyone lingered long and attentively, reading and looking at my pictures carefully in the same way I look at my children's books. This, I think, is the very highest compliment- to watch people give themselves over to something, to stop whatever else they're doing to study something- to know it's something I've made myself that they're looking at- is so affirming. It is wonderful to know I can do something I love and to be able to share it. A couple came into the gallery yesterday and the gentleman said to me by way of goodbye: 'I came in feeling quite grumpy, and now I feel really relaxed. Your work has taken me somewhere else'.

Dave was not without his fair share of admiration on the opening night either: toiling well into the previous Thursday night to prepare no less than 150 macarons, (only one of which was left uneaten at the end of the night very probably because it was smooshed up in the crush to stuff salivating gobs Darwin over); he was rewarded with the sound of many ladies sighing in plaintive tones: 'I wish my husband made macarons for me!' Dave and I are so compatible that way- he cooks and I love eating, so all is as it should be.

And now, with around half the exhibition promised to happy buyers at the end of the week when it all comes down, my mind is already on another, and other projects besides. Stay tuned!

In the meanwhile, here's a little something I managed in between times that didn't make it to the show. 'Alicia of Hearts' is already on my market shop table in a limited edition of 30, and would make the perfect present for every little girl from 3 to 103 who has a fondness for all things pink. She is of course inspired by that wonderful little girl who falls down a rabbit-hole and captures the heart of everyone who remembers what it is to be a child in a world of adults who talk a lot of nonsense.   

All nice things for a wonderful weekend wherever you and your heart might roam.
Mel x

Friday, 2 December 2011

sweet press

Only hours to go now! I was stoked to find this wonderful article in today's copy of the NT News promoting tonight's opening. A huge thanks to Caine Edwards for his words and Michael Franchi for coming in to take photographs on Wednesday.

And in other exciting news, I've also only just this minute received a call from the ABC in Alice Springs- be listening in at 6.25 tonight folks!

And now I'm off to attend to hair and dress and other important things- see you there!

Mel x

Monday, 21 November 2011

sweet treats - goes with the territory craft fair

Hullo everyone! I have not, contrary to appearances, discovered that explorers have been wrong all these years, that the world is indeed flat and I was the unfortunate victim to fall off it. My intentions are much more sedentary and perhaps less noble, but I've been just as busy all the same!

With the countdown on for 'Strange Creatures, Sweet Allsorts' in less than two weeks' time, I've been wallpapering our good town of Darwin with posters, tying up loose ends with framing, and sending invitations among a million other little things.

Dave and I have also been busily preparing for the various Christmas Craft Markets about town. Here were just a few of the lovely things we had on display at Yesterday's Territory Christmas Craft Fair, as well as our usual movable feast of framed prints and original paintings and drawings.

Imagine how chuffed we were this morning to find our local paper 'The NT News' had chosen our stall to celebrate the event!

On the table in front of me were no less than 36 gorgeous necklaces; mostly made by Dave these days with my illustration workload, and strung together by me. You can also just make out a framed 'Nariko' and 'The Wondrous Cycling Piggy' resting on the bench in the background.

It was a fantastic day and mostly so enjoyable for us I think because of the wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst the other local craftspeople and artists like us, doing what we love best. Of course, Craft Fairs like this depend on the local attitudes toward the handmade things we sell, and I am so glad to live in a place where people can appreciate the time and love we put into our work. Like so many friends in the game, we've made- and still make- a lot of sacrifices to be here. I'm so grateful for every person that gives us a kind word for our work, and I don't for a second take for granted the many people who have supported us, and especially me, in making happen what was once a little pipe-dream.

So thank-you, lovely readers.

Mel x

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

coming to a wall near you!

I love getting things in the post! Most often it's Fimo. Last week it was a new set of gorgeous Escoda paintbrushes, still waiting impatiently for me to use them (lots of drawings to finish this past week).

But today, some very special pieces of paper arrived- the invitations and flyers for my upcoming show, 'strange creatures, sweet allsorts'. Be sure to swing past my stall this Thursday at Mindil, Friday at Palmerston (both the last for the year) or Saturdays at Parap to pick one up for yourself, and another for a friend!

And of course- watch this space for more sneepy peeps leading up to the December 2nd showdown!

Mel x

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

the woodchopper's daughter

My Auntie Cheryl and Uncle Steve have a wonderful sprawling house in Tyers, in the Gippsland region of Victoria. I spent almost half my childhood in this house, and it is one of my very favourite places to be in the world. 

From the lounge-room window at night-time, you can see all the lights in the LaTrobe Valley, like so many fallen stars waiting for the morning to return home. In the summer, the cicadas chirp and the air crackles with hot winds and the whispering of the pine plantations my father’s family have forested for so many generations. The backyard backs onto a gully, verdant with grass and blackberries my four-year old self would happily stain her fingers and mouth with, once I'd tired of petting Mitsy, my Aunt's pet goat. When I was five, my grandpa and Uncle Steve built me a cubby house with a view of the gully, and it was here I'd eat my Coco-Pops before Auntie took me to school in the morning.

There was always a friend for me to play with: Sam, the first of many faithful labradors my Aunt and Uncle have loved over the years, who would patiently sit anywhere he was told to whilst I stroked his velvety ears. There was dear old Skippy, so named for the leg he lost in a rabbit-trap as a kitten. Never was there a fluffier, happier little rag-bag cat, a marvel to watch as he hopped along at a quicker clip than most of us care to walk. After Sam went to doggy heaven there was Jake, who had eyes only for Uncle. Auntie and Uncle would always talk to him like a real person, and Jake seemed to understand them: he knew the word 'rabbit' meant sit up straight and proud like a setter and scan the lounge-room for any possible hoppity interlopers. He also knew the word 'bike' meant real and proper adventure in his elderly years: Jake had been trained as a puppy to sit in a (rather largish) crate my uncle had attached to the back of the motorbike he used to check on his cattle. Roaming around on the property was Jake's favourite thing, besides his 'Dad', my uncle.

The house itself is huge. Uncle took it upon himself about ten years ago to renovate parts of it, starting with a beautiful black slate floor to run its' length. At the time there were three mini-lounge rooms, which Uncle turned into one. The supporting beam is a sleeper from the old Melbourne docks, now festooned with gas lanterns to hang from the arm-sized nails that still stick from it. Backing onto the lounge room is a wooden deck, where I loved to sit as a child and listen to storms as the rain pounded and bounced in a deafening roar off the fibreglass canopy.

But my favourite of all is the wall by the front door. This has become a kind of family tree photo album over the years: hand coloured black and white, my beautiful late Grandma and my Grandpa on their wedding-day. Their features alike and ghostly with the age of the paper, my Uncle's family, the Richards, when they used to run the mill on Mount Erica. My beautiful cousin Kylie in her twenties, with freckles on her nose and the sweetest little pixie-cut. My Uncle's sister, who to me was always 'Auntie Pat', her lovely heart-shaped features framed by a silky-grey mane of hair, spilling down to her waist while she made something sparkly and delicate with her hands. Me, blonde and five years old on my first day of school.

But my favourite picture on this red-brick wall is of my Uncle Steve. Here, he is twenty-two, laughing hugely and balanced confidently atop a man-sized log; his hands gripping an axe that is forever caught in mid-air, mid-chop, hair bouncing thickly to his shoulders. I can't imagine he's changed all that much in the forty years since this photo was taken, though his hair, even in black and white, seemed closer to a crimson than the strawberry, pepper-flecked tones he keeps in his sixties, and much longer. But there is that same twinkle in his eye, of mischief, of a face that smiles often; a face that looks at home with a deep rumbling belly laugh or a few bars of an Elvis song, pitch perfect. In photos I've seen of Uncle a little later, he lopped his curls off into an Elvis-style pompadour. And when I came along, we'd spend afternoons in the sun room, he on the keyboard and backing up my broken little vocals to 'How much is that doggy in the window'.

'The Woodchopper's Daughter' is a little tribute to all of this: a landscape of gum and pine, of crackly summer days, of a house- you can't see it yet, but just over that hill yonder, of childhood adventures. And the hum of an Elvis song.

Mel x

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

goodbye dear friend

It's been sad here.

Three weeks ago Dave and I came home from a rare day out to find a tiny bobtail kitten on our doorstep. After wolfing down the entire contents of Monty's foodbowl, I tried following the advice of the local pound and attempted to drop her off at a vet's. Of course, they couldn't take her, and it being 5.30 in the evening, the shelters had closed. I took her back home where she made herself cosy on the couch, did kitty things in Monty's litter box without any prompting or accidents, and at night, jumped daintily onto our bed and fell asleep between us. By the next afternoon, she'd been checked over for a microchip (not surprising she hadn't one given how dirty and starving she'd been), given a bath, and, little guts swollen like a barrel and spotted fur aglow, claimed as ours. We called her Willow- her tabby colourings gave her a shimmery look in the light when she bounded along like a miniature bear, but her paw-pads were a smoky black, as if she'd trod in willow charcoal.

Monty, quite naturally, had his wee nose out of joint for the few days following the arrival of this interloper, and spent his waking hours chasing her like a common dog, obsessing over her tiny twitchy tail. By the weekend, Dave and I would wake up to find them sound asleep on the leather office chair, each a rounded ball of fluff and spots. Monty was a complete gentleman, and sat aside patiently whenever Willow decided she wanted to scoff her face at the foodbowl. I even caught him giving her a little kitty kiss.

And then Monty got really sick. After two trips to the vet and two relapses of listlessness and a complete disinterest in food or anything else, we knew our bouncy kitten wasn't right. More tests and another x-ray showed he had both FIV and inflamed kidneys. We visited him at the vet's for most of last week, to try to tempt him with his favourite snack of sausages, to brush his lovely fur and tell him how much we loved him. Mostly we just cried.

The vet told me on Monday morning that Monty had passed away. We'd been looking forward to the day, partly because he'd been booked in for an ultrasound at another clinic, and he always loved car rides. Mostly we just wanted to spend as much time with him as we could. He was seven months old. The vet told us he'd very likely contracted the FIV from his mother, which is pretty rare. Fully-blown FIV, like human AIDS, doesn't really make itself known until the cats are quite a bit older. We would never have known, and we're so thankful we didn't. The kidney failure was just one of those things- rare, but not unheard of.

Our little Monty had the very best five months with us, and we with him. It's so hard losing a pet, and harder still to explain to people without them why you feel like part of your world has ended. I grew up as an only child, but was always surrounded by cats. I told them my secrets. They snuggled especially close when I was sick or sad. They were always there, quiet company to fill a room and my heart.

Goodbye Monty.

Friday, 23 September 2011

promises and (a lack of) sleep

Hullo lovely readers! Indeed, I have not been hit by that stray satellite that Yahoo tells me will soon implode on as yet unknown destination, but am alive and will probably remain so for some time yet. We are nearing the slow season market-wise, with only five weeks and about as many tourists floating about in the increasing heat. And yet, our little shop seems to be plodding along better and better every week. Dave ventured out a few weeks back, bit the bullet and bought a gazebo, and last week managed a 'system' whereby everything is crammed into our little Mazda within an inch of it's life, and my face is pressed pleasantly against the windscreen (I'm joking, that's not legal, advisable or comfortable, but is an exercise for the aspiring contortionist).

We've also got a whole heap of postcards- handy for all of those holiday postcards you've been putting off- they're so pretty you only need fill out your address and your loved ones will think all their Christmases have come at once! Also very handy for offloading any unwanted shrapnel you might have, you know, weighing down your pockets.

If it's groceries that's weighing you down, we've decided the best way to support local initiatives in banning plastic bags is to make our own- for $25 you can have your very own Nariko tote:

And coming later this week, another featuring the super-popular Cloud Princess:

In the way of prints over the past few weeks, I've sold out of: 'Crimson Cloaked and Hearted', 'Redjamjellysplat', 'Tea Time' and 'White Lace and Snow'. Originals are still available for all of these besides 'Tea Time' and 'Redjamjellysplat', and are available for sale after December. I'm selling fast out of 'The Cloud Princess', 'I  ♥ Bubble Tea', 'Alice Liddell's Pink Flamingo', 'Gnome Tea' and 'The Wondrous Cycling Piggy'. You are more than welcome to send me an email or swing by one of my market stalls to pop a deposit on one of these beauties before they sell out- they would make wonderful Christmas presents! 

And, because of the sheer number of lovely ladies asking after them, and because we hate disappointed faces in the pursuit of bling, Dave and I have been pulling a few all-nighters to put our sweet allsort necklaces back on the table:

Sorry folks, there's no custom-orders on these. Every mixed necklace is treated as an individual piece of wearable art, and is, like the fox in 'The Little Prince', 'unique in all the world'. I am considering doing multiples of the watermelons however, but you might just have to hold your wee horses on this one- these are a labour of love and when all's said and done, each necklace can take up to a day to make.

And, last but not the least of my 3am bedtime efforts this week, a new painting, 'Promises and Sleep':

All of this contributes to a very pretty-looking little set-up, if I do say so myself!

All nice things for a wonderful weekend,
Mel x

Thursday, 8 September 2011

and on the grumpy star shop today: something old, something newer and something . . . pink!

Good morning lovely readers! Today, and Thursdays in particular, find up to my shoulders, not in cake and Caran D'Ache pencils as I would like (come on, we all have weird fantasies about it raining watercolour pencils, right?) but into-do lists, which are decidedly much less fun. And also very nearly sold out of another edition- namely, 'Redjamjellysplat!'. If you've had your eye on her now is the time to bite the bullet and snavel the very last one, my own copy (the A.P. or artist's proof) in fact! She's been so popular I just know someone will come along one night and just fall in love- and I know better than anyone the eleventh commandment for all Artskind: 'Thou shalt not stand in the way of beautiful useless objects coveted by thy neighbour'.

And in the way of said objects, here's a few little beauties I've popped up on the Grumpy Star shop recently. I drew "The Goose-Girl" over Christmas last year and I'm very proud of her, created as she is of the humble mechanical pencil and nothing more. "Alice Liddell's Pink Flamingo" is a painting I finished yesterday, based on a drawing I did 6 months ago (no chocolate-based treats for you bright sparks who manage to decode my thinly veiled reference to a certain piece of literature lately enjoying a lot of reinventing). And 'Dorothy, Toto and New Shoes' was a drawing I did while sitting in the Spanish wetlands one sunny day shortly after this year's Bologna Book Fair. She was a lot of fun, and I especially like Toto as a sort of minature labrador.

Speaking of dogs, I have taken it into my head I would very much like to be the owner of a French bulldog in the not-too distant future. Monty refuses to comment on the matter and Dave's response was a rather emphatic 'No' when I sought a penny for his thoughts. Perhaps I need to refer him to the eleventh commandment?

Happy Thursdays to all, and to all- happy seeking of beautiful useless objects!
Mel x

Saturday, 27 August 2011

hullo nariko!

Happy Friday everybody! I'd like to introduce you to Nariko, my sweet little working-class panda. Here she is, waiting for the 7.15 am train into town, already thinking about the lovely milky chai she'll be sharing with her friends after work. She has taken particular care to kohl her eyes just right today; if you can't tell by her Mona Lisa smile, she's secretly hoping her friends will bring along a certain boy panda who she has a rather largish secret crush on! Wish her luck!

Meanwhile, the Grumpy Star stall at Mindil, Parap and Palmerston markets continues to chortle along more than merrily, and I am always reminded, with everybody's lovely comments, of how lucky and fortunate I am to do the job I do. A huge thanks to everyone for your love and support, and panda-hugs all round!

Mel x

Monday, 22 August 2011

goodbye, boy with the heart balloons

Hullo everyone! It is Monday, which as it turns out lately, is my new Saturday. As you all know, I've been all-systems-a-go-go on the market circuit, meeting loads of lovely new people as well as all the new discoveries of creative folk and their doings in my own backyard. Sunday nights are my favourite at Mindil Beach I think; everybody is in such good spirits, things are a bit more relaxed than the madness of Thursday nights, and everybody is keen to start a new week off right by sharing their smiles and stories with me. This is my favourite part of my job; being an artist so often means working in isolation, so market days are kind of like having mini art-openings but without all the anxiety, formality, wanky philosophical musings and vinegar masquerading as alcohol. Yes, I have the best job ever!

I am very excited and a mite sad to tell you I have sold my edition of ten that was 'The Boy with the Heart Balloons'. If you missed out, you might be interested to know the original is as yet unspoken for and you're very welcome to send me an email should you want to give him a nice home!

Sitting on my market stall four times a week has certainly been a learning curve; with my lovely Dave's help, we improve part of our set-up a little bit more each week. I have to say again how overwhelmingly positive and supportive people have been in these first few months of business, and I am never not grateful or unaware that this has been one of the biggest factors in our success so far. Your comments and stories always buoy me up and inspire me to improve my painting, thank-you!

Happily, so many of the people who have bought artwork off me these past few months are parents, buying work expressly for their children to grow up with, appreciate and love forever. I am always so happy to talk to Mums and Dads who take the time to explain the editioning process to their children who ask what those funny numbers are at the bottom left of all my work, and who nurture their children's imagination. These children will much more easily accept creativity into their lives as young adults, and their journey will be the richer for it. Through artwork we become more accepting of ourselves and others, and increasingly are able to respect and embrace the things that make us different. As I often say to people when they ask me why I do what I do: art isn't one of those essential things for our survival like air or water. But it makes life so much the more enjoyable, and by that measure, it is absolutely necessary.

The other day, a woman pushing a pram walked past and noticed our hero of the heart balloons.  "Oh. He's a boy. So why is he wearing pink?". She didn't address this to me, and didn't linger long in any case: she had already dismissed the work, I am convinced, because it didn't fit into her understanding of 'male' or 'masculinity' (honestly, hasn't she seen 'Alfie' and Jude Law's famous proclamation that men need not fear pink when masculinity oozes from their very pores? Or, more to the point, if said sebaceous secretion does not occur, is a man or boy favouring a pink shirt really anybody's business anyway?). I thought gender-stereotyping was on the out, but clearly sheer ignorance keeps this sort of close-mindedness alive and kicking. Perhaps she was related to the dolt who told me I was 'un-Australian' because I buy my paints from Italy and paper from Germany. And perhaps they will have xenophobic little children who will wear pink and blue accordingly and never challenge anything because they weren't encouraged to. Is it just me, or does this smack of Stepford?

If we build boxes so small and tight about our understandings of the world, we leave no room for new discoveries and the potential to experience something wonderful and inspiring: we leave no room to grow. I was having a conversation with a young friend of mine this weekend, who, being still in her teens, commented that there's a scary sort of norm in adults doing menial jobs they hate and subsequently moan about, and all the while push their dreams further down into that box marked 'forgotten'. 

This is what the heart balloons represent: those lost and forgotten things that we once wanted, those hopes we had that eventually deflated because we listened too closely to those who said we couldn't or shouldn't. This is what the boy is sorry for, and why he tries to give new hope to punctured dreams that otherwise might not ever see light again. 

Will the boy hold a balloon for you?

Monday, 8 August 2011

the little yellow teacup

Hullo lovely readers!

It has been a massive few weeks; I made my debut at Darwin's famous Mindil Beach Markets last Sunday, started at Parap Markets this Saturday just past, as well as occupying my usual spot at Palmerston Markets. I am very happy to say that business has positively boomed and bloomed beyond my most daring dreams these past few weeks- a very humble and heartfelt thanks to all you lovely people out there who have made this possible. I can honestly say I have the best job in the world- I spend half my week doodling and puddling around in gorgeous paints, the rest of the time I'm listening to or sharing stories with travellers and locals who visit my stall. It is such a nice thing to think that these people love what I make enough to want to look at it every day.

Here's a little snippet of the latest loveliness I've managed to add to my stock at Grumpy Star Studio. You can find her with me at the markets this week- be sure to click on the links to my facebook fan page for all my stall updates.

Have a wonderful Monday!
Mel x

Monday, 25 July 2011

the pony preoccupation

As a younger girl, I admit I struggled to understand why every other eight-year old female was mad about horses. Unicorns, yes. Pegasuses: definitely- the wings are a no-brainer, of course they'd be a cool pet! My Little Ponies: sometimes, and only ever as a companion for my Barbies. I guess you could say I was a bit of a horse snob.
But I have finally given in: they really are wonderful, expressive creatures to draw, and I've had great fun these past 6 months watching them crop up in my doodlings. Here's the latest little offering from my sketchbook this week.  

Did any of you have any animal obsessions when you were younger? I'd love to hear about them!
All nice things,
Mel x

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

when i was five . . .

Wonderful Wednesday wishes to you! I have been flat out these past few weeks preparing my submission for the 2012 Bologna Children's Book Fair Illustrators' Exhibition, so for want of something to share with my lovely readers, thought I might spend an hour drawing in my much-neglected sketchbook. This is a little tribute to "Tangled", Disney's latest and perhaps last princess film. I'm sure it's no surprise I fell in love with it!

A few posts back I also asked if you wouldn't mind sharing some memories with me from your childhood; a huge thanks to everyone who contributed. As for me, when I was five I was pretty sure I wanted to trade places with Ariel from Disney's"Little Mermaid", otherwise have hair like Rapunzel. I didn't really buy into the whole girl-in-a-tower thing, but I did approve of the singing and eyelash-batting and long hair in general. In the interim it took to grow my own, I improvised with silky lengths of rope. All of this ended when day when I flew into a strop, having shared my game with the girl next door who took the longest of my two pieces of rope for her own.

What were your favourite movie/ book/ heroes/ characters when you were a kid? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

All nice things,
Mel x

Friday, 15 July 2011

♥ the hearted fawn ♥

I started this little dear in the wee hours of last night and finished him this morning- proof that he wanted to be shared with all of you! I'll be adding colour shortly, but if you ♥ him and his spots, please 'like' him too! 

Have a brilliant Friday wherever you are in the world.
Mel x

Saturday, 9 July 2011

thoughts wanted # 1

Hullo lovely readers, hope you are having a wonderful Saturday night wherever you are in the world. For me, this involves digesting the best ever homemade fish and chips and polishing off another few drawings while thinking about starting a few more. Which is where you good people come in!

For those of you who are already a Grumpy Star fan on facebook, you'll already know about my callout for donations to my thought collection. Every good artist knows they don't exist and can't survive in a vaccuum, and fresh meaty ideas are what I'm after! If you can't support an artist with your wallet, pay with words, I say! I'd certainly love to hear your thoughts on these ideas:

  • What did you want to be when you were five? and,
  • What is your favourite/ most poignant childhood memory?
All contributions will be credited warmly! A huge thanks to those of you who have already shared your memories and thoughts with me; have a bit of a squiz for yourself here. And while we're on the topic of thank-yous: a very warm one to the gorgeous family who stopped by my Palmerston market stall last night, and went home laden down with framed prints for their lovely young daughters. They made my day, not least because they seemed truly to love and want my artwork, but because they were so sweetly and sincerely spoken about their efforts to support local artists.

Have a great weekend everybody!
Mel x

Friday, 8 July 2011

the wondrous cycling piggy

Top of the Friday morning to you all!

Here she is as promised: the colour version of 'The Wondrous Cycling Piggy", with a huge thanks to Michelle for helping name her. Our piggy is hot off the press (quite literally) and I'll be taking along a handful to my usual Friday night market stall in Goyder Square, Palmerston (my permanent spot is between the gym and the library and behind the Indian food van). As always, I make a promise to buyers to keep my editions small and special- there's only ten of her, so get in quick! Unless, of course, you're after the original, which is, as yet, unspoken for!

Have a brilliant Friday.
Mel x

Monday, 4 July 2011

monday is the new sunday - hullo again from blogland!

Hullo dear readers, happy Monday and fear not, I am still in the land of the living! Sundays may as well be workdays; it seems Mondays now are dedicated to exhaling after what has been a series of mental weekends. It has been a massive few weeks all round really, what with workshops, the first Parap Arts Festival, the usual round of markets, starting my five pieces to enter into the 2012 Bologna Illustrator's Exhibition, a day of distraction when I convinced myself it would be a great idea to start making art dolls again (right in the middle of starting said Bologna project, mind you!), and a rather large preoccupation with the chaos that was previously my house. How do people do all this and still hold down day-jobs and raise families?

Here's the progress on Operation Nesting Sans Baby Plans Because We Have a Mad Cat, starting with our loungeroom. The brightly coloured frames we picked up in Brighton when we were in the UK; the bowl of fruit in the pink one is a drawing of Dave's. Pretty wonderful, isn't it? And in the larger frames, gorgeous artwork by the very lovely Nicoletta Ceccoli. My favourite is the one in the white frame above our bed, who makes sure we sleep sweetly. We're planning on painting the studio over the next few weeks, now I've cleared a mountain of crap out of there (ie. closed the cupboard doors on it), which at least might save poor Dave coming home to a kitchen table entirely covered with paints, paper, or, last week on the day I decided the play dolls, synthetic fur. It looked a little sinister in fact, like a swan had had rather a bad anxiety attack and mistakenly decided it might be a good time for preening. Also not a great day for me to wear black.

In other news: for those of you who missed my post a few months back about the Bologna Book Fair, it's well worth looking into the Illustrators' Exhibition, perhaps the most prestigious award for children's illustrators the world over. Besides a rather boggling sum of prize-money and the publishing opportunities awarded to the overall winner, the publicity afforded anyone who gets themselves in is fantastic. Check out last year's selected illustrators to see the width and breadth of the world's best. And then, read the rules of entry and start on your own entry for 2012! Be aware that you need to have a fixed number of five pieces, and I would say, from my observaytions of entrants over the past two years, very very tightly realated to each other in composition, theme and style. And while it is notoriously one of the most competitive prizes to be accepted into, I have made a promise to myself I will enter every year regardless- why don't you do the same! I figure it will be a pretty wonderful day when I finally do get my work shown there and well worth the wait.

This and a few other commissioned pieces have kept me pretty busy painting and drawing-wise these past few weeks; alas, there's not a whole lot of my hard work I'm able to share just yet. This little one though, I managed in a few productive hours of stall-sitting. This isn't a subject I draw too often (and I won't point out the irony of this particular picture with this particular post if you won't), but her pose and faraway look suggested she might be waiting for something special to arrive . . .

Hope you have a brilliant day everyone!
Mel x

Thursday, 23 June 2011

suggestions for a superlative sunday and other stuff

Hullo lovely readers! Hope your week has been wonderful and productive and that you've made exciting plans for your weekend. If you don't have plans, you're Darwin-based and after a superlative-soaked Sunday, head down to the Parap Market grounds for the Parap Festival for all the fun! I will of course be there with new work, old favourites, handmade jewellery and some gorgeous framed prints, all ready for you to take home, hang on your wall and love!

In the meanwhile, I've scored myself a permanent spot at Palmerston markets- I'm on the corner of the library, opposite the gym and just beside a food van selling scrummy samosas and curries, which means you can multitask: eat curry, have a chat with me and offload your spare change on a new print for your hungry walls! I'll be there every Friday night this dry season, from 5pm 9pm.

If you can't wait that long for your Grumpy Star fix, head over to the Charles Darwin University e-news room to read a bit about my adventures in illustration; thanks Ana!

Methinks it's time for an afternoon coffee- the perfect accompaniment to a Thursday sketch sesh! Why don't you do the same.

Have a great afternoon.
Mel x 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

crimson cloaked and hearted

Finally dinner preparations are done with for another day (minestrone soup and cheesy twiggy-stick muffins- sounds like the sort of standard fare for mistaken individuals who pronounce 'gourmet' phonetically and think a Cherry Ripe counts towards their five-a-day, I know. All the same I can assert with utmost confidence that those little muffins are all cholesterol-ridden class and another great reason why I should keep running). Monty has also calmed himself sufficiently to curl up into my lap, giving me the occasional soppy look that is very much at odds with his 20 or so attempts to ascend the flywire, climb onto the kitchen bench, drink from the sink and take a flying leap at me as I pass him in the hallway. He will drive me prematurely grey and keep the hairdye people in business, I am sure.

Kind of like hairdye but not are Polycolours, and imagine my delight last week when I got my delivery of 39- yes, 39!- new jars of the stuff! I am chomping at the bit to find a spare weekend very soon when I can finally paint my spare room and transform it from its current state of 'Mellie's Junk Room' into 'Mellie's Magnificent Studio Where All Sorts of Fun Stuff Happens'. So taken with my lovely new colours am I that I have considered building a shelf to hang on the wall at eye-level that I may line them up in order. Very probably I would not get a lot of work done, but sit there admiring the pretty. I can almost understand why van Gogh chugged down a few gallons of the stuff, though I have strong doubts as to the nutritional value and in any case, it would be rather an expensive habit.

These paints are incidentally the very same I'll be sharing around next month for my 'Illustration Techniques for the Avid Doodler' workshop, which is filling up fast! I've spent years buying and trying all sorts of materials, and I'll be telling you a bit more about my favourites on the day. Most importantly I'll be showing you how I use them in my own artwork and helping you develop yours. Click on the link or send me an email to get yourself booked in quicksticks! Also, if you're wondering what you missed out on this Saturday just past at 'Plasticine Pictures', here's one of my favourite works in progress, by workshopper and wonderful local artist, Cait Wait:

I am making elaborate plans to owl-nap this gorgeous little thing for myself this Saturday for our second installment! 

And finally, in between paint-gazing, marketeering and workshopping, I've had less time than I would like actually painting, but I am very happy to share this one with you, finished fresh last night. 'crimson cloaked and hearted' will be ready for sale this Friday night at Palmerston Markets for your very own, or you can come say hullo when I'm out and about in Paprap on Sunday for the Parap Festival!

Happy Tuesday everybody!
Mel x

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


They say you're a local in the Top End when you've been here ten years- or at least that's what they said ten years ago! Like most people who end up settling here, I never thought at fifteen I'd end up staying, much less leaving the place for London and very happily returning- the very place I said I never would return to! It's a strange old world, and, it has to be said, very happy I am to be occupying this slice of it. 

Part of this previous reluctance to being a local meant I never really got to Kakadu before now: my love of the outdoors only ever involved a fascination with my grandma's garden, wild mushroom rings, rusty-coloured squirrels and rabbit stew. Kakadu's magic is wilder: the colour of fire and woven of golden lace the black masks of bee-eaters and the king of trees, pandanas. In the last glow of the setting sun, with the taste of smoke on the air and a chill to prickle the baby hairs on your forearms, it is golden Country.

And so, having finally rejoiced in my being a Top Ender, here's a few snappy snippets of my very first trip to our gorgeous national park.

If you're somewhere cold, have a wonderful Wednesday evening snuggled up with something milky and caffeinated with a purry cat in your lap and write me a letter. Or email. I'm not fussy, but I do love to hear from you!

Mel x
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