Monday, 3 December 2012

Miss Krystal's Kitty Whiskers

Until very recently, I was a dyed-in-the-wool crazy cat lady.

It's not my fault; as I say, my Mum is cat-mad, and her mother before her. Probably the women in my family have been mad feline fussers for centuries now. Probably we are actually part cat- God knows I shed hair like one, don't much care for being dirty, and have long fingernails the thickness of sheet metal that completely contradict zero interest on my part to look after them at all. As of yet, no whiskers, but I'm sure that will change in another 3 years or so when I hit 30.

I can hardly remember any cat I've ever met that I didn't like. When I was very, very young, my Mum taught me how to approach a new cat: slowly, with hand outstretched, and at their eye-level. Only when they chose to come closer to me, and had been given a few minutes to have a good sniff, explained Mum, should I pat them. As I grew older I learned that there are a few things cats almost universally love: getting scratches on the spot where their spine meets the base of their tail, having their noses rubbed, and a very gentle tug on their tails as they slink past.

I love that a cat's respect must be earned. Which is totally fitting, since most of the time mine make me feel like a glorified handmaid whose sole purpose in life is to feed them when they're hungry, cuddle them should they be feeling particularly magnanimous, but otherwise, to just sod right off- especially if I've just vacated a pre-warmed seat for them to jump into.

I also love the way cats play with complete abandon. My normally very dignified and often quite pompous bobtail Willow was only twelve months ago an ungainly little ball of legs and tumbles, falling all over herself to chase her rattly ball. Or climbing the clothes-horse like a regular chimp, just because she could.

Cats are the most self-serving, narcissistic creatures we congratulate ourselves for 'domesticating'; just because they don't scratch our eyes out on a daily basis and occasionally plop themselves in our laps for a bit of a purr, doesn't make them any less calculating. I love the sheer audacity of cats: even when they are caught in the act of doing something naughty, they will still look at you like you are a complete halfwit. 'Do you mean to say I shouldn't have my face buried in your dishwater? Perhaps you shouldn't have made it so tasty by flavouring it with spaghetti sauce from the pan. I am merely cancelling out your wastefulness here.'

And not an hour later, when I am in bed and peacefully snoozing, I will feel a little paw on my nose; not unlike someone knocking on a front door. This is Daisy's code for: 'Mummy, be a good human and lift up the blanket so I can take advantage of the bed you have spent time warming for me. You may scratch my belly also, but put some effort in or else I'll just get sick of you and jump off and guilt you for not being properly devoted to me.' And what can I say- I fall for it every single time. 

All said, R-Patz had it almost right: fluffy kitty bellies are like my very own brand of heroin, albeit a more health-conscious choice and a little hairier. So without further ado, here's a fun little tribute to everything I love best about my meowing machines, and the crazy cat-lady that lives inside me.

If you've got any stories about the cats in your life, I'd love to hear them!

Have a brilliant day poppets,
Mel x

Thursday, 22 November 2012

are there doughnuts in heaven?

Hey-ho grumpy stars and pink galahs!
This is a little piece I finished last week, and I'm so glad to share her with you at last. I am really pleased with the way this character turned out; perhaps most of all because I finally feel like she is, on paper, everything I wanted her to be in my head. It sounds silly, but, me being my own harshest critic, it's always important to me to be true to my ideas, and try to solve problems I have getting there with my media. Coloured pencils are so often overlooked, but I really feel with mine that I have the control that I never felt with acrylics, and, given patience to just plug away, most of the time I get the results I'm looking for. It's exciting to look back even 6 months and think: 'Wow! I really have learned a lot!', and to think forward, even just another year, and think of what I might achieve then.

I think one of my greatest pleasures as an artist is to watch people's reactions as they walk around my market shop; to see them smile from their insides-out is so wonderful, and to hear them laugh is even better. I know when people laugh that they 'get' it, and I feel lucky and priveliged.
In contrast to this, I've also heard my work described as 'naive' (which I find supremely insulting), and/ or whimsical (which isn't too much better). I tend not to invest too much emotionally in conversations with people when they say these things because they've already dismissed my work on a stylistic level (I once had an infuriating conversation with a woman who insisted my work was 'naive, like Holly Hobby' and assured me she'd done a Masters in Visual Arts. I worked very hard resisting the temptation to suggest she ask for her money back). Very simply: I am serious about my pursuit of creating characters with one foot in my imagination, but convincing enough to flit between that and the real world. It doesn't mean I don't make serious art, it just means I want to have fun, to express a sense of humour, and in a way that isn't photo-realistic. The people who smile and laugh know all of that, and it's a relief, quite honestly. For me, it's validation, it's being understood, without having to justify myself or go into boring discourse on what art is, or should be, or silly labels that I feel boxed in by.
My little doughnut angel was my way of being a bit of a dork really. A few months back, when I'd kicked my smoking habit and was offsetting my misery slogging it out at the gym; fresh, hot cinnamon doughnuts were the perfect substitute, I felt. I did also joke at one point that heaven wouldn't be properly 'holey' if it weren't liberally stocked with doughnuts, and, in fact, it was my personal opinion that they should fall from the sky like rain, on the hour, every hour, and naturally they'd be calorie-free. As I got to know my little angel though, I got to thinking about all the obvious, existential things too. Mostly, I thought about my Grandma.
My grandparents have always been a big part of my life; growing up, school holidays were almost always spent on their farm. My Grandma's heart was big enough to hold everyone in it who'd ever met her; most people who ever made her acquaintance loved her and quickly became part of the family. Christmas-time saw Grandma in her element: cards poured in from all over the world and presents were sent in turn for all of the grand-kids, both biological and adopted. I was the youngest of the grand-kids until the great grand-children came along, and spoiled pretty well rotten. My Grandma had the most amazing gift of making everyone who ever met her feel like the most special person on earth. I looked nothing like my parents, but everyone said I was the spitting image of Grandma. She was always a beauty, even in her vintage years, and I loved poring over old photos of her, with her lovely dark hair and tiny waist. To me, she was the most beautiful woman on earth: inside and out. She was also, incidentally, an amazing cook and artist. 
Three years ago, I got a call from my parents to tell me that my beautiful Gran had had a sudden heart-attack. She'd slipped away in the hospital a little while later. Dave and I had only been living in London for a few months and, having only just found jobs, we couldn't afford to make the trip home. I always knew the day would come. Grandma always had one foot out the door after all; for the woman who taught me about fairies, I often wondered as a child if she wasn't a fairy herself. Being so far away, all I could think was: just one more time. One more cuddle. A chance to say goodbye. There were so many questions I still wanted to ask her: about life, about being a grown-up, about my family. . . For a lady that had always been so sharp and proud and funny, it seemed far too soon to say goodbye.
So what do you ask your loved ones when they're already gone? What do you ask when no end of questions would ever be enough, no last cuddles would ever scratch the surface of the person you've lost?
I realised that there were a million things I would never know the answer to when I lost Grandma. But, in little ways, I keep her alive in my heart. I still remember what it felt like to give her a cuddle. I can still hear her whistling along with the radio; the smell of her purfume; the way she'd peer over her glasses to do a lunchtime crossword, and scratch at her temple in concentration. The way she'd laugh, and it would fill up a whole room.
Sometimes I write letters to Grandma. They're not always written down on paper, but sometimes, just thinking of what she might say helps me make better choices, helps me do what is right, and helps me listen better to what's in my heart.

Dear Grandma,
I hope you are enjoying nice weather up there, and that you spend time with people you love.
We miss you down here.
Do you have a nice big pantry up there? Do you think you could make a roast next Sunday and send me a little container of leftovers? How many stamps do you think you might need for that?
And Grandma, I was wondering- do they have doughuts in heaven?
Please remember me to Poppa and my kitten Monty. I love you always x o x o x
Mel x

Saturday, 20 October 2012


Well, hello possums! I hope your weekend is a veritable orgy of fun frocks and frivolity, or, at the very least, a welcome reprieve from the warfare of work and other necessary mundanities.

I have been a busy little bee this month past. Perhaps you might have caught a few of my W.I.Ps on Facebook; though I sometimes feel like using it  is synonymous with selling my soul to the devil, it seems this is where I am getting the most feedback for my work these days! Still, my stats do tell me there are a dedicated few of you who still read the blog, and this is a good thing, because probably I would go mad if I couldn't write. Facebook is brilliant when used responsibly, but as I've said before, I feel too often that Facebookers can forget about the real feelings attached to the real people on the other side of a comment. It leaves me a bit glum sometimes.

I am not a bit sad, however, to share my latest addition to the Etsy shop, 'Frida'. She is probably the lady that needs no long-winded introduction, and I can't lie- I  don't actually know all the nitty-gritty about her anyways. Like most people, I find some of her work hard to look at. If I'm being honest (and before you storm my house with pitchforks, do remember this is just my opinion!) I don't think all of it was strictly good painting, and perhaps more accurately, it doesn't really suit my aesthetic sensibilities. All the same, there's no denying Frida Kahlo's work was utterly compelling.

I'm not sure how many of us can really identify with the sheer volume of her many personal struggles. The streetcar accident and the crippling physical pain that haunted her long after, eventually causing gangrene and the amputation of her foot; the continued heartache of her miscarriages; even the tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera- any one of these things can and do break a person.

In my teaching days, I would mention Frida Kahlo to my students, who would continue to look at me blankly until I showed them a picture of her. They knew then, exactly who I was talking about ('the chick that looked like a dude' I believe one of my more astute charges described her). I think I am drawn to Frida Kahlo because her pain is written in her face, and there is such a strength in the hard set of her jaw, a fierce sense of self and unflinching honesty that transcends the monobrow and the mo and is, quite simply, beautiful.

There is a very famous photograph or two of Frida in some sort of alleyway, cuddling a deer, and this is how I think of her: both wild and barely contained, fragile and stronger than perhaps she could have known, and beautiful in her refusal to corset herself in the times and expectations of her sex.

What do you think?

Mel x

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


Hello, hello, and happy Tuesday grumpy stars and pink galahs!

I have had a beautiful week with my latest Wallflower, 'Astrid'. I love the sound of this name; the soft hiss of the 'As', and the muted thud of the 'id'. I have a bit of a love-affair with the way certain names sound, I must confess; like a Robert Frost poem, there's something about the way that names are said that brings them to life and gives them three dimensions.


'S' sounds in particular give me little goosebumps. Just for a bit of fun, have a read of this poem. Then read it out loud (for best effect, try to maintain the iambic rhythm if you can!).

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost, 1923
I think this is my favourite poem mostly because I feel like I've been somewhere else when I read it. It haunts me in a beautiful sort of way; long after I've finished reading I imagine echoes of snow falling and feel a sense of, I suppose, delicious loneliness. The little snowflakes around Astrid are a sort of tribute to this aural beauty, and in contrast to the daisies in her hair- because, this is a joyous and happy picture after all!
And, quite fittingly, her name means 'fair, beautiful goddess'- suits her very nicely, don't you think?
Speaking of all things divine, 'The Goddesses of Small Things' opens this Friday night at 6pm, DVAA, Woods Street, Darwin. This little flyer was designed by my fabulous and very clever friend Marita Albers, and you can come grab yourself one from my Mindil or Parap Market shops, or from Jacksons Art Supplies. This little gem of a show is all about miniatures: beautiful little things for you to love, and small enough to make your wallet smile too! Really looking forward to seeing you there.

Have a brilliant rest-of-the-week!

Mel x

Saturday, 8 September 2012

introducing eva

Well, hello hello, dots and poppets!

Romeo raised a interesting, semi-existential question I reckon, in his monologue about roses smelling just as pretty if they were called another name. Vis-à-vis, do you ever meet people, and they tell you their name, and all the while you're thinking: 'That is just not the name that fits you?'.

I suppose I can relate to this, since the various stages of my growing up were clearly delineated by the names that people have called me. My parents named me Melissa, because they didn't want anyone to shorten my name. Quite predictably, they were the first to shorten it to either Liss or Lissa, and the rest of my family followed suit. As a teenager, my friends called me just Mel, which I have kept as an adult. I like that it's short and sweet and a bit informal; it feels like my idea of me.

Now don't get me wrong, Melissa is a very pretty name, and I wouldn't say it doesn't suit me, but at best I feel it's probably a bit too elegant and grown-up for the way I see myself most of the time. It is historically also a clear indication that I am in deep shit with the parents, should I be called or referred to by my full name. And, for this reason, I have always felt somewhat squirmy and uncomfortable in the past when employers call me Melissa (worse, is when I have tried to introduce myself into a workplace as Mel, and people think they're being polite by calling me Melanie). 

Because of all of this, I see the names of my characters as the final flourish to my work. Sometimes I have to sit on a piece for a few days until I strike upon the name that they are meant to fit, the one that is quintessentially them. Sometimes I ask Dave for his thoughts. In fact, when he asked me what I planned on calling this particular character, and we both said the same name, we knew it was absolutely right for her.

And so, without further ado, I'd love to introduce you to the second character of my 'Wallflowers' series, 'Eva' (as in 'AY-vah', not 'EE-vah').
Eva is of course the Latinate variant of the English 'Eve', and inseparable from the idea of life. I have been working towards creating characters that are a little older, and perhaps a little more in touch with their sexuality, which is perfect for a character that is so vital and sure of herself, and, let's face it- a little bit booby!
I think hair also says a lot about female sexuality, and like all of my characters, Eva has piles of the stuff. Renoir knew the power of the plait: it is both a revealing of a girl's femininity and a binding of it; a bit of a tease, really. Look at his bathers: charming lady-bits and very sweet, unaffected mannerisms. Yes, they're almost totally naked, but somehow sexier, and unavailable because of their elaborate hairstyles: they're still retaining some mystery to unlock. It works just as well in real-life: the most attractive people are almost always largely unaware of how lovely they really are.

Have you got any stories to share about people and the names they have or should have? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Have a beautiful weekend,
Mel x

Friday, 24 August 2012

good things in threes

Me again!
For all of you who are chomping at the bit to snavel yourself a copy of 'Aurelia', she is now available for sale in my Etsy shop: hurrah!
And, on the subject of my Etsy shop, I've created a little coupon code for all of you who just can't decide on your favourite character. Choose any three prints to the value of AUD $50 for only AUD $120. You'll only pay for shipping once too: AUD $8 within Australia or AUD $12 anywhere else. Once you've popped your three favourites into your shopping cart, just enter GOODTHINGSINTHR33S once you're at the check-out.
I know a lot of you come back and continue to support my work and do yourself out of all available wall space, so this is a little thank-you ♥ 
Have a beautiful weekend!
Mel x


Hullo dots and poppets!

Hope your week has been nothing short of splendiferous. Mine has been a busy one. Mindil Beach Market being cancelled this Sunday past was cause for a bit of a celebration in our house, since it meant a much-needed 'night off' for both of us. By 'night off', I do of course mean 'a night of drawing, beached on the couch, trash on the telly, in close proximity of inspiration (the coffee machine and fridge) nary a care that I am a slob at heart and nobody is around to raise an eyebrow at my leggings holier than a blessing from the Pope on Christmas Day'.
Among other things, you might infer from this little monologue that I am very much the homebody. Working from home is a dream come true for most people I think. But it is certainly not without its challenges, and I am learning everyday that it's not easy to be disciplined and eliminate distractions. It is always quite wonderful though, when I can synthesise all of the qualities I love and admire about the artists whose work is on my wall, and use it to inspire me to create better work and develop my own art practice. I am so happy to say thay it's very hard for me to be away from my pencils for too long at the moment, and I'm using almost every spare minute away from the market shop to draw.

For all of you who follow my adventures on Facebook or Instagram, you'll already know that I've been on a bit of a roll these past few weeks sketching out a whole heap of imaginary portraits. It is totally indulgent work that I am really loving: beautiful girls with sweet demeanors in gorgeous clothes.

And so, here's a few pics of my latest effort, and the first finished piece of my 'Wallflowers' series: 'Aurelia'. Her name means 'golden', which I thought was kind of fitting for her caramel-coloured eyes and Nordic tresses. Aurelia loves purple and was especially delighted to find this little eighties number crop up in her local op-shop. The only thing she needed to really set the whole thing off was a funky purse- cherry red to suit her lippy; salvaged this time from her grandma's wardrobe and customised with a bit of lace and an antique daisy necklace for a strap. Très chic, no?


I hope you love her as much as I loved bringing her to life.

Mel x

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

snip snip spaghetti

Well, here we are, Wednesday again! I do hope it's been a wonderful one for you; for me it is effectively a Sunday and heralds the start of another potentially awesome week of being a carnie artist and lording it at my marvellous market shoppe.

I must say I am feeling particularly chirpy and excited about this coming week, mostly because I can finally put my lovely readers out of their misery, and share the brand-new print I've been teasing you with these past few weeks!

Like almost every little girl, I loved the story of 'Rapunzel' growing up, and like almost every big little girl, I was absolutely delighted by Disney's gorgeous interpretation a few years back. Being a total geek, I've always been fascinated by the symbols and themes of traditional fairytales, and increasingly frustrated by the cotton-wool approach of so many modern interpretations. 'Tangled' is so unabashedly fun and charming in so many ways (not least the casting of the adorable Mandy Moore as the voice of Rapunzel) that you'll find few complaints from me there, harmless as it is.

In fact, this particular tale was watered down pretty much in its conception: by the time the Brothers Grimm got to it, Rapunzel was already snug in the mould of damsel in distress. Does it not strike anyone else as remotely dumb that she didn't just hack her plaits herself? Why wait for some silly prince to come along and knock her up before she decided she wanted freedom? (Oh yes, by the time the wicked witch threw her out, Miss 'Punzel was already up the duff with twins. But then, there's only so long storytellers can maintain their heroines' maidenhood with a story that is essentially about a girl trapped in a giant phallic symbol).

Even as a little girl the sorts of heroines I loved best were always the deciders of their own fate, and the sexier for it. Always pretty, but in an interesting and flawed sort of a way. Rapunzel is traditionally portrayed as golden-haired, but I much prefer the mysterious, exotic look of a raven-haired girl, and so decided my interpretation needed dark roots, 'dirty' roots even- I like to imagine dying her hair was the first thing she did when she escaped her tower prison and began her own little Rapunzel Rebellion. (This was mostly inspired by an enraptured viewing of old Green Day video clips showing on the blinking television set in the cheap 24 hour diner where she took refuge that first night of freedom). The regrowth is starting to show now that she's been on the road a few weeks. So too is her rose tattoo healing- she wanted something badass but decided that getting a tattoo was really quite outrageous enough, and would still have given rise to a right cracker of an argument had the old witch been there to see it, which made Rapunzel smile and enjoy the whole sadistic pleasure of being inked. And besides, Rapunzel isn't too tough to admit she really does have a soft spot for roses!

Like a typical teenager, Rapunzel gets bored waiting, with nothing to do. It must have been ages ago that she ordered. Maybe a little snip might give the waitress a hint . . .


Mel x

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

pretty, pink and a little bit punk ♥

Happy hump-day peeps and squeaks!

Just thought I'd share a snippet of a drawing I've been working on this week . . . oh, and any excuse to fiddle around with Instagram! Only a week has passed since I finally gave in to the iPad craze and as Dave will testify, I am already addicted to those gorgeous lo-res, faux Polaroid effects!


Mel x

Monday, 9 July 2012

♥ Time for Rabbit-Tea ♥

Hullo you wonderful people!

Well, after a few weeks filled with all sorts of pleasant diversions and distractions, I can finally share my 'Time for Rabbit-Tea' series with you, as promised, whittled down to 3 and in full colour.

While the Blogger format dictates that I must put these in a particular order, I originally drew these with the idea that viewers could create their own order and narrative for these characters. They sort of began a full year ago, in their black-and-white forms, as a surreal interpretation of the way I often feel, waking up groggy from a long afternoon spent dreaming and napping. I wanted to create something beautiful and fun, and of course impossible in the way that only dreams can be.

These are of course available in my Etsy and market shops; $50 each or for a special price of $120 for the full set!

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on these. Which is your favourite of the three? Do you have a story of your own about these characters you'd like to share?

Love and bunny snuggles,
Mel x

Friday, 29 June 2012

little dollies sweet as lollies ♥

Well hullo there, and a very happy start-of-the-weekend to you!

So, I've been spruiking off for nigh on a year now about dolls and my textiles background. And, after three months of prototyping and experimenting, these little poupées are ready for anything! Each and every one of them is one-of-a-kind (OOAK), developed from my very own pattern and design, and unique in all the world.

Meet Beatrice, wearing her happy jumper and frilly skirt- the perfect outfit for frolicking in the sunshine on a Dry season day.

. . . And Harriet, whose love for all things polka-dots is rivalled only by a weakness for cute shirts and liberty prints!

. . . Katy, inspired of course by rockabilly retro and the lovely Miss Perry.

. . . Daniella, who loves peaches, bunny rabbits and her twin sister Sophie.

 . . . And Sophie, an auburn little rose of a mermy girl, just a few minutes younger than her sister Daniella, her bestest friend in the whole world. 

You can catch these beauties at 'Outside the Square', opening 5.30pm, Friday 6th July, Territory Craft, Darwin.  

If you can't make it, I'll be sewing my little fingers raw making more to share with you here really soon. And, in the meanwhile, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have a beautiful weekend,
Mel  ♥

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

hustle-bustle, bunnies and bowler hats ♥

Hullo there poppets, and a very happy hump-day to you all! Wednesdays of course, are sort of like a Sunday for me, and generally herald another 2am bedtime- cutting mats and framing, printing, packaging up postcard sets, cleaning tablecloths... a carnie's life is never dull!

Of course, the Dry Season markets also mean that my week is split between manning the shop and drawing. So often I say there simply aren't enough hours in my day to get everything done, and this, in a roundabout sort of way, is the very subject of my latest work.

You might recognise these images as three of the five that made up a black-and-white series in my show 'Strange Creatures, Sweet Allsorts'. In the intervening months, a lot of people have commented on the pictures I've popped up of them, until finally I decided, I needed to colour them and bring them properly to life!  Fingers crossed I'll have finished pictures to show you next week, but until now, here's a little teaser of my triptych 'Time for Rabbit-Tea'.

Mel ♥

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

greetings, and some sweet new cards ♥

Hullo poppets!

Well, as always, I'm buzzing about like a busy little bee, occasionally fitting in some much-needed gym time between ginger-cake quaffing, market merriment, manic drawing and mad-cat taming!

I shall in a week or so, fingers crossed, have a few new prints to show you. I'm working on colouring a series of drawings I started last year, and, quite typical to every stereotype about artistes, I am happy to keep you all in suspense a little longer until I finish them all for a grand unveiling! If you are on Facebook though, you can catch a few teasers either on my personal timeline, or the Grumpy Star Studio page.

In the meanwhile though, I've been attempting to develop my photography skills with some snaps of my brand-new Set of 5 Art Cards and Envelopes! You can snavel yourself a set of these for only AUD $10 on my Etsy Shop. They are blank inside, so perfect for any occasion, even just a special letter to put a smile on the face of someone you love!

All nice things,
Mel x

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