Monday, 30 May 2011

workshop posters!

Hot off the proverbial press- all the details for the upcoming illustration workshops!

Either of these would be great for teachers, secondary school students considering a creative career, or anyone at all who loves to draw, make stuff or generally tinker with anything at hand. It's all about having fun and meeting other local creatives- all skill levels are more than welcome. Probably best to get in quick though for the "Plasticine Pictures" workshop- this is designed to accomodate lots of one-on-one feedback and support and encourage collaborative practices, so I'll be taking on a limited number each time I run it.

Any questions or expressions of interest, please feel free to drop me a line at

See you there!


wonderful workshop weekend!

Happy Monday all!

What a weekend! I am amazed by those crazy kids who can pull all-nighters for days on end, but alas I was barely able to manage two, and there was no debauched partying for me in my aged state, no. On Friday morning, my day was mostly free for drawing except for the spot of muffin making and baking I'd planned for my lovely workshoppers the next day. This day of calm turned into a 3am bed-time, as I was gently persuaded by my lovely Dave that it would be an excellent idea for me to attend the Happy Yess 5th Birthday party to take advantage of the hordes of groovy tuners at my disposal and make a few sales. An excellent idea of course, but as the early morning bedtime might suggest, the darling printer decided to have a snit with certain types of (the nicest) Hahnemühle paper we have, thus turning a 2 hour job into five. Stoopid technology.

And though I could have carried my week's groceries in the eye-bags I wore the next day, the workshop was wonderful and over far too quickly. Have a look at my workshoppers' gorgeous work, and yes, you should absolutely feel jealous for having missed out! (Not to worry though- I'll be doing another, 3-day, in-depth illustration workshop on Saturdays 18th June, 25th June and 2nd July, as well as another 1-day workshop on illustration techniques on Saturday July 30th. Be sure to let me know if you're keen- I'll only be taking on a limited number! Watch this space for all the details or just book yourself in anyway- you know you'll have a great time!)

Before I'd even had a chance to revel in my wonderful day of workshopping and sharing ideas, it was time for me to get my droopy-eyed self over to Brown's Mart and scoff a cupcake or two to prop myself up for the evening. The music was fantastic, and not for the first time I thought how lucky we are to have such a clever bunch of creative Darwinites who, though their hearts may wander and their feet roam our little planet, always come back to share their music or art or general good selves with us locals.

As I did at my last market, I met loads of really wonderful people, locals and visitors who stopped by to say hello and other very lovely things about my work. Most memorably was a friendly fellow who bought a necklace for his daughter and persuaded his female friend to wear it so he wouldn't have to wear it himself on account of it clashing with his shirt; a lovely lass from Adelaide who bought my "tea-time" print, came back again to show her friend what she'd bought, and the third time to pick up her print and buy another, "the pink brolly". I so love it when people make that commitment to choose really special things for themselves; I love watching them deliberate over their choices and finally to give in and just get another because they really want that too- it is the highest compliment for me.

There was also another nice fellow who came by to tell his mates about the 'awesome' picture I'd awarded Cara at the CDU Prizegiving Ceremony a few weeks back, and how he'd have liked to get it himself. And lastly, my gorgeous friend Brooke Barnett came by with a huge kiss and hug, a much needed catch-up after 4 years or so since we've seen each other, and to buy my 'unicurl', which she instantly fell in love with. Thank-you, all you wonderful people; as glad as I am that you love my work and want to buy it, it is the loving it and the saying so that means so much.

All nice things,
Mel xo

Thursday, 26 May 2011


As much as I love painting, felt-tip pen and graphite pencil are my first loves and I never fail to be impressed my the effects you can achieve with either. All the same, keep your eyes peeled for a colour version real soon! And do tell me what you think- I always love to hear your thoughts. Or, just as good, send me an email and place your order for a print now!

Have a lovely day,
Mel xo

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

hello cloud princess

Is your morning is going so well you'd all wag your tail if you were lucky enough to have one? If not, or even if it is, here's a little something for you to enjoy between mouthfuls of porridge and your second cup of coffee for the day. I'll be printing an edition this week for those of you who haven't already put an order in for her- better get in quick!

On the subject of prints, I've had a few emails over the past few days from some lovely people interested in buying my work, and how they might do so. Keep your eyes peeled on this space for my Etsy Shop later this year. Until that time, you can find me on the first Sunday of every month in the DVAA gardens selling my wares at the Happy Yess Market. The pricing is dependent on the size and where in the world you're currently living. I print on Hahnemühle archival paper with similarly long-lasting Epson inks. I also keep my editions small to respect customers' right to owning something special that every second person won't have. But for all the specifics, and for the majority of you who aren't local, feel free to send me an email telling me what work you'd be interested in buying and what size you'd like it printed. Or, you could just send me an email to say hello or that you like my work- those emails are awesome too!

Have a wonderful day everyone!
Mel x

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

mel macklin's guide to children's illustration #101

Top of the Tuesday to you! Hope you're comfy with a steaming cup of that most wonderful caffeinated stuff with marvellous things planned for your day ahead. I kind of love mornings; the day is so full of possibilities, Monty is asleep in my lap having made the great effort to hoover up another kilo of food, and the light is casting golden shards across the part of my garden I can see out the window where I sit to say a good morning to you all.

In case you haven't found me on facebook and noticed me plugging it to the dickens for the past month, we are officially on the countdown for my first children's illustration workshop, which I have ingeniously called: "Mel Macklin's Guide to Children's Illustration  #101"*. If you are as enamoured with the title as I am, be prepared and get thy sleepy-rest now, because I'll be giving you such an overload of fun stuff and eye-candy on Saturday your little brain might just explode, or, at the very least, you'll have a supermassive awesome day!

Now, I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say when we were living in London and I actually had a bit o' pocket money, I would take said money and spend it on children's books. This, I told Dave, qualified as 'research': I was perusing the market of which I sought to be a part. It was, I told him, very much like denying a builder his right to a hammer, or giving a typewriter to a computer technician: without these books, I would be uninformed. So you'll be pleased to know if the bank should decide one day to relieve us of our house, we will at least be very well 'informed'!

And, inspiration being the best oiler of those cogs in your imagination, which then sends messages to your brain prompting a twitch in your fingers to grasp themselves firmly about a pencil, I would say buying children's books has almost a direct relationship with drawing and making better drawings. Which is why I'm so excited to be sharing a bit of my 'research' with you!

I'm also really keen to hear what people think about illustration in general: what you don't like to see is just as important as what you're drawn to as it shapes your own personal style; it would be wonderful to hear what people think of the day and I will very much be taking these contributions into consideration for future workshops.

I think there is such a tendency is illustration for artists to isolate themselves: whether it's for fear of someone stealing their ideas, or because sometimes, it's hard to realise those super talented or prolific people we admire are just as industrious and hard-working as we might be; they're just older and a little more practised. But what I realised this year, as I discussed in my post on taking the time to say "bravissimo", there is something so wonderfully liberating and rewarding in telling others what you like about their work. There's something of a touch of karma about it too: often these same people will be only too happy to point out something wonderful you hadn't already noticed about your own work.

As an illustrator, I think you need to surround yourself with other artist friends: they know best that awful condition we only whisper furtively about: 'artist's block'; they've probably been rejected by publishers too, and they need someone, just as you do, to remind you of what's great about your work, and to offer constructive feedback that they aren't always able to give themselves. Giving someone else advice about their work takes the focus off your own creative problems, and in articulating how they could develop their skills, fortuitously you often find you've solved your own problems. It's a happy cycle: let's get together and get illustrating!

Come along to DVAA, Woods St/ Frog Hollow, Darwin, from 10am-3pm Saturday May 28th. For only $50 you'll be getting a scrum-diddly morning tea, and all materials-pretty snazzy ones at that- are provided. Get yourself there, have some fun, make new friends and get a start on that wonderful book everyone deserves to read. Book yourself in by calling the lovely Leanne on 08 8981 9351 or email Bring a camera and your biggest smile and put both to good use!
Can't wait!

Mel x

*To be taught alongside "Mel Macklin's Guide to Taming a Very Naughty Kitten #101" and "Mel Macklin's Guide to Raiding the Fridge for Wont of Something to Preoccupy Oneself With #101"; subsequent classes for those seeking to further develop their skills will be almost identically titled, but with the coding '#201' instead. Clevertrousers indeed.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

more progress with the princess

Top of the Saturday morning to you all!

I know this documentation kind of spoils the surprise of seeing the properly polished piece, but if, like me, you're teaching yourself how to paint by observing the great masters of contemporary illustration (Rebecca Dautremer, this means you!) you might appreciate the time and love that goes into the painting process. I see every children's book I buy as an investment (in fact, most of them aren't for reading, given I buy a great bulk overseas and my French and Italian is appalling and Spanish virtually non-existent!).

Whenever I am stuck and feel frustrated with my technical progress, I take an hour out to pour over my books; my nose literally millmetres from the pages, scrutinising every detail. Rebecca Dautremer's work is such a wonderful source of visual advice; she knows how to achieve smoothness in her work with patience, and how to cross-hatch to blend her shading for those really deep, atmospheric backgrounds. It is a laborious process; I have to be concentrating every second I'm painting and consequently can't do so for longer than a few hours at a time before I need to get up and do star-jumps (or, most often, have a cup of coffee, a slab of cake and attempt to tame the kitten). It is kind of like being a one-girl circus!

And on that note, I'm off for a spot of painting-taming!
Mel xo

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

prizes, paints and paper

Hullo everyone and happy Wednesday!

For those lovely readers who have found me on Facebook, you might remember I mentioned last week I'd be sponsoring an award for the Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment Prizegiving Ceremony for Semester 1, 2011 at Charles Darwin University.

Being the wife and daughter-in-law of social workers, I have a bit of an understanding of what it takes to be successful in this field. There's no surprise it's hard work. I think it takes a very particular sort of person to do these jobs, and we need to acknowledge and celebrate the successes of people who can do them and do them well.

And so, I donated last week's newest addition to the Grumpy Star Studio, the Boy with the Heart Balloons. I thought this would be a nice reminder of all the hard work that goes into gaining a degree, and for the industrious soul who managed to do so with distinctions and high distinctions in a field like social work.

It was wonderful to meet Cara and her lovely parents and to present her with her award. Congratulations Cara, I'm so glad I didn't give you another book voucher!

And a big happy birthday to Cara's mum for yesterday- I think she was hoping Cara might let her share her prize!

While we're on the subject of the Boy with the Heart Balloons, here's a few close-ups for those of you who might be interested in spending your pocket-money on some new art equipment.


Last week I told you a bit about my lovely friend Francesca Vignaga, who creates her gorgeous work by using coloured pencils over acrylics. I thought this might be a good technique for me to use, given that painting is still relatively new for me as I try to bridge the gap and form a happy relationship between my past experience in watercolours and graphite pencil drawings.

As you might have seen in the development of my brolly-girl a few weeks back, I start off my paintings with lots of thin washes, partly to ascertain harmony within the palette and partly so as not to lose the translucence of the paper too soon. The paint I use is Polycolour, which I bought in Italy (and then lugged all 5 kilos of it over Europe). If, like me, you've flung yourself to a remote corner of the earth, I've found Amazon can generally get it to you quicksticks without lightening your wallet too much.

When I've established a sense of light, perspective and firmly rooted the figure within the grounding with my acrylics, I pick up details (the eyes, the hair, fabric textures) with Caran D'Ache watercolour pencils sans water. These have a lovely clay-like consistency; kind of like soft pastels but with more sticking-power and stronger colour saturation. At the same time as a sharpened pencil can add a more realistic sharpened focus, when used in a looser way like you see on the grass or trees, they pick up the underlying textures and soften the focus of the background. When I want really sharp lines, like for individual strands of hair, I use my Derwent Artists (a Christmas present from my parents when I was 8 and wanted to draw like Da Vinci- a bit shorter but still good after 17 years!)

As I mentioned last week, the paper I'm using is Aquarelle; a hot-press paper with minimal texture. Sometimes I use the wrong side of a cold-press Fabriano; cold-press being a more textured watercolour paper. Paper is perhaps just as important as what you put on it; for example, if it's too waxy I'll press harder to compensate for the lack of definition, and very soon I've torn the paper surface. It can take awhile to experiment with lots of different papers to find what works best for your particular technique. Aquarelle is probably the most expensive, but you get what you pay for- there's no point in creating a materpiece on photocopy paper! Stroking the surface of a fresh piece of Aquarelle paper is like sticking your nose into a bag of freshly ground coffee- so luxurious as to be slightly indecent!

And on that note, it's high time I attacked another of those lovely pieces of paper with a pen and paintbrush!

Mel x

Thursday, 12 May 2011

the boy with the heart balloons

Dave bought me some gorgeous Aquarelle watercolour paper last week- here's what I did with the first piece. I would love to hear what you think!

Mel xo

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

on taking the time to say "bravissimo"

I have realised in the last year the value of spending time with my fellow illustrators and what it can do for artist's block and those awful feelings of stagnation and boredom that creep up on the best of us at some point or other.

Waiting for the doors to open on Day 1 of the 2011
Bologna Book Fair

At the Bologna Book Fair this year, I'd got myself to the artist's wall nice and early and whacked up my posters under the lights where I hoped publishers would see them and my details and contact me. Just as I was about to turn away and start the hunt, I saw a girl putting up her posters next to mine. They were so beautiful, I just had to go and tell her- and so I met the lovely Chiara Arsego. Within minutes of meeting her, she was inviting me to stay with her in her hometown Vicenza, or else, extend our stay in Europe so she could give us a personal tour of her current home in Paris. As I often am in Italy, I was bowled over by her warmth and kindness and liked her instantly.

Mine and Chiara's work on the Artist's Wall

While we were in Bologna, we met up several times at the fair and kept each other company while standing in torturously long lines to get our portfolios reviewed. Chiara told me her own story as an illustrator, and shared with me her own struggles to have her work recognised and eventually published. What I love most about her work I think is its' fleshiness- her characters are so solid and believable. Most of the work you see for her book "Colette" isn't so big at all- maybe 30cm square; I think it takes real cleverness to use such a compressed space so well. Her colours are equally gorgeous- all sepias and crimsons and emeralds. I can't wait to see more of her work later this year.

The Artist's Wall at approximately 9.30am on Day 1 of the Fair.
By Day 4, it will be covered in posters from floor to ceiling,
work overlapping or pocketed by admirers;
artist's business cards strewn all over the floor.

On one of those standing-around occasions one day, Chiara found me and introduced me to her lovely friend Francesca Vignaga; another wonderfully talented Italian illustrator. Francesca showed me her gorgeous work in "Fantastigatto" (roughly "Fantastic Cats" in Italian) and told me about her technique: crosshatched pencilwork over acrylic paint. If you look at her work and fall in love with whatever you see on the screen, I have to tell you it is ten times as gorgeous in real life. Her use of lighting and colours and the way she balances them is beautiful.

I am so glad that I tapped Chiara on the shoulder that day, instead of keeping my admiration for her work to myself. I have realised that it doesn't matter how successful people are, everybody likes to be told their work is good. I think we have a responsibility, if we like something, to say so! It could be a comment left on someone's blog, a letter, sharing a link, saying hello and "I like your work", or, if you have the funds, the ultimate- buy a piece of their work. Illustration is such a competitive industry, I think we need to support one another- my experience of Bologna this year was so much the nicer for having met Chiara and Francesca. Mille grazie miei amici, complimenti!

Mel xo

Monday, 9 May 2011

happyyness! the new happy yess market poster

Hot off the press! The gorgeous happy yess market moles have sent out a call for Darwin creatives to get their crafty fingers to work and donate said artsy tendencies to create promo posters for the market. And, you guessed it- I'm the lucky girl to have her poster put up around town for the upcoming month! Keep your eyes peeled for a poster that looks a lot like this (well, exactly like this):

If people don't see it, be sure to direct them right here! And, if you like it, please feed my hungry comments letterbox with your thoughts- I always love to hear them!
For those of you who don't know, happy yess is a collective of committed locals who support Darwin's muso's and often help get young kids/ fledgling bands the exposure and opportunity to play that they need to get their feet off the ground. It is such an awesome Darwin 'thing': as well as its' involvement in the music scene, happy yess hosted my first post-uni exhibition with my friend Emma Long 3 years ago when it used to have its' own premises on Bennett Street. Now on Smith Street in the Browns Mart Complex, happy yess is still given loads of love and time from wonderful people who are paid mostly in the deep satisfaction of supporting something they truly believe in.
Check out the website on to see what's happening this month, and go along to some of the great gigs this Dry season; you never know what underrated musical gems you'll see play! If you have absolutely no idea what to see, go along on Thursday 19th May to see my gorgeous friend Gretchen (whose birthday it is today- happy birthday!) play in her band with Kris Keough, Red Plum and Snow- this would be an awesome place to start your happy yess experience, or even just to reacquaint yourself.
And, of course, cancel all your hair-washing plans for Sunday, 5th June and come to the happy yess market instead. I'll be there with bells on ready to meet all your poor things who missed out on the fun last time!
Happy Monday from Monty and me,
Mel xo

Friday, 6 May 2011

pink hearts and brollies

Darwin might be a small pond, but I am realising more and more what a lovely place it is for us artists and how lucky we are to have such a fantastic creative community. Tonight Dave and I toddled along to the Artist Trading Card Exhibition opening at DVAA (well, actually, we had to get there early so I could hang my work and then reward myself with some tasty Spotty Dog ice-cream from Trampoline!).

And, in other exciting news, here's Miss Rainy Day, all finished and splendiferous in the rain!

Mel xo

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

ruminating on rainy days while running

Isn't it funny how you can look at something and after some time realise there's something not quite right, perhaps even quite wrong with it? Like those Escher buildings- there's all the ingredients there for a very convincing (if highly elaborate) gutter, except the water is flowing upwards?

Faces are such an important part of my work, and I had a sinking feeling the one I'd painted on my rainy girl wasn't the one she ought to have. I voiced my doubts aloud and Dave's gentle comment that she might not be the very prettiest I'd painted confirmed my worst fears. I would have to paint it over.

All of this coincided with our evening run, (a new development given our increased intake of muffins, roast pork, homemade pastries and other delicious things that will eventually leave us with no other options for clothing besides circus tents). So, since running is basically torture anyway, everything else seems so much easier to do once the running has finally stopped and one no longer feels like one's throat has been ripped in a dozen places. The last thing after four k's of it I feel like doing is inhaling another apple-cinnamon sweetie. And, since painting involves neither screaming calf muscles nor the intake of lovely things to make said muscle development ten times more difficult, I thought, why not, let's give her a makeover.

And here she is, really proving, I guess, that "30 minutes a day is all it takes".

Mel xo
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