King Penguin: Woodland Birds

I thought I'd better blog about something other than recipes for a change - it's been food, food, food lately! Must be the nippy winter weather & bracing seaside walks making me peckish! Here's my latest King Penguin acquisition, Woodland Birds. It's in beautiful condition, & is the first one I've bought that still has its dust jacket. Published in 1955, it was one of the last King Penguins to be released, & is written by Phyllis Barclay-Smith & illustrated by Peter Shepheard, who also designed the gorgeous cover. The colour plates are so beautiful, don't you think?

I Hit the Secondhand Book Jackpot!

I've posted before about the June long weekend secondhand book sale. I go every year (they had one in March this year too). As usual, I went with Mark & Stevie, & left feeling like a pirate who'd just plundered the most amazing treasure trove ever! Stevie found this big stack of King Penguin books from the 1940s (all of them $5 or $7.50 each & in pretty good condition) & in a very civilised fashion with no hair-pulling whatsoever, we went through them, picking out favourites, divvying them up so we each got to buy a few. I can't recall all of theirs, but there was one about freshwater fish, another mushroom one, wild flowers, reptiles, one about ballet, children's art, Scottish costumes - lots! Here are mine, with a couple of plates from each. The covers, as you can see, are gorgeous, & the illustrations are as fresh & rich as the day they were printed. What an amazing range of subject matter the King Penguins explore, I think I might have to collect some more - I love them so much! Popular English Art, written by Noel Carrington, illustrated by Clarke Hutton. 1945.

From the Archives: Children's Dictionary

I went to a secondhand book sale yesterday with Mark & Stevie, & this is one of the treasures I bought - a children's pictorial dictionary from about the late 1940s-early 1950s. I love that it's Australian & features some familiar images, such as the galah I included in my montage below & the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Stevie spotted the book first & knew I'd love it because of the incredible endpapers (above). I love the vivid colours & the weird juxtaposition of images.

Mark also found an amazing design book from the 1950s for me - I'll show you some pictures of that one another time. It's nice to rummage at book sales with friends who can keep an eye out for things you'll love!

In other news, I was interviewed for The Finders Keepers blog recently, where I talked a little about my influences & work process. If you're interested, you can read it here.

Print Giveaway - Tell Me About Your Shoes!

I was so happy with the Favourite Shoes print that I made another edition in my favourite colour combo du jour - red & pale blue - & it's now for sale in my Etsy shop.

It's difficult to decide which edition I like best, but I'm really in love with the card stock I used this time, it's a lovely eggshell colour with little red & blue flecks, & looks just like a speckly bird's egg. It suits the print so well!

Anyway, I thought I'd have a little contest & give away a print. All you have to do is post a comment here in my blog giving an anecdote, or description, or even a link to a photo or artwork about your favourite shoes.

I don't really feel a burning need to win one of my own prints, but I thought I'd get the ball rolling with my own shoe story...

I remember walking down King William Street (main street through the centre of Adelaide) with my mum when I was about three or four years old. I know it was near my birthday (in October) because it was mild, late-spring weather. It was a balmy & rainy late afternoon that grew so dark the street lights came on & they reflected in the wet roads & pavements, which reminded me of a poem I had a particular love for at the time (click the image to the right).

I was wearing my favourite outfit - a purple & magenta paisley silk smock dress with swirly brass buttons (I'm talking 1971...my mum always dressed me in these ultra-short dresses, this one was no exception), little white ankle socks, & shiny black patent mary-janes. I loved those shoes. They had buttons instead of buckles - just like my Favourite Shoes print (which is based on a pair of shoes I own now).

I remember walking along the shimmery, rainy street (the acoustics change when it rains like that - the traffic was all echoey) holding my mum's hand, & in the other, clutching a brand new colouring book & box of crayons she'd just bought me. Penny Lane by The Beatles wafted from a shop doorway.

It was just one of those perfect happy moments. I loved my shoes, I loved the day & my new colouring book, & I loved my mum. :)

And have a look - I still own the book with the poem about rainy streets in it that the day evoked in my four-year-old mind...

There are other shoe anecdotes of note that I could have shared...such as the time I set fire to a total stranger's brand new trainers with a flaming marshmallow at a party...but that one's not nearly as picturesque, & anyway, it isn't about my shoes.

So, if you'd like the chance to win a Favourite Shoes print, feel free to share your shoe story. I'll pick my fave in a week's time & announce the winner. Make sure your comment links back to you so I can contact you if you win & get your address!

Accidental Beauty & Organised Chaos

Maybe beauty is too grand a word for accidentally organised clutter, but even so, I thought these little dogs (picked up a few weeks ago from a flea market) I'd put to one side of the hellish mess I call my work table, made a nice little arrangement deserving of a photo! The collage on canvas behind them is a little work in progress - I must get around to finishing it...

The piccie below is another accidental arrangement from a few months ago. I was idly fidgeting while talking on the phone & made this little scene on my desk. The thing the tinsel tree is sticking in is a grubby lump of blue-tack with the word 'please' pressed in it from my 'please do not bend' stamp. Notice my blog on the screen behind it?

I've been flat-out busy lately, but for all those involved in the Paper Chase, I am madly collaging the nights away. Last count, I think I'd received about 30 packages!

What else have I been doing lately? Well, I've listed some new things in my Etsy shop. I thought I'd try & justify the extravagant purchase of stamp making equipment by making some to sell as well as for myself. I'd like to expand the selection, but here's what I've got for starters. I'm granting buyers a license to use them commercially, & all the designs will be exclusive to the range. I'm also gradually taking product photos so I can list a whole lot of buttons, magnets, keyrings, etc. The multi-packs that I've listed so far seem quite popular!

I'm also making hay while the sun shines (ie. using my gocco before supplies finally run out) by doing some new gocco prints, including some pieces for a gocco exhibition in October that I'll tell you all about later.

Rummaging Pays Off Yet Again!

Well, I set my alarm for an indecently early hour on Saturday morning (& promptly snoozed through it) because it was the opening day of an annual secondhand book sale, held every June long weekend, that I never miss. Arriving an hour later than desired with two friends, we set about struggling through the dense throng of rummagers in the hopes of getting our grubby hands on some coveted treasures. Side note: Coincidentally, the three of us were wearing fair isle jumpers (or sweaters, if you like to call them that) & so inadvertently set a new book sale trend. We're thinking next year everyone will be resplendent in fair isle, but by then we'll have moved onto houndstooth or paisley or something.

These book sales are brutal. Secondhand book collectors are a particularly aggressive breed. After jostling through the masses, feverishly (& rather possessively) stooped over trestles piled with dusty books, I finally unearthed a few bargains that made the struggle worthwhile. Actually, it was my friend Mark who found this little beauty for me.

Brimful of Interest, Excitement & Skill

Look at this great board game my friend Mark brought home for me from a secondhand market a few weeks ago. You're all invited to come around to my place on a rainy Sunday afternoon & we can sit on the floor & play Fairyland & have fizzy grape juice & ginger cookies. Hooray! Well it was just a matter of time I suppose...it looks like I've been tagged by the well-preserved & fabulously talented benconservato & illustrator extraordinaire Racheal Anilyse. I won't tag another 7 unsuspecting bloggers, but here are my 7 random or weird facts about myself:

  1. When we were kids, my sister Jo & I had a cardboard box with a human skeleton (Jo traded it at school for one of her Barbie dolls!), a scary black wig she got for Christmas, & a bunch of spiders (that escaped from my bugcatcher) in it.
  2. My sister & I used to play a game we called The Chocolate Nun. I'm not sure there were proper rules, but it involved hand signals somehow...& I think one of us wore a cape.
  3. As a child, I was obsessed with the trappings of bureaucracy & made my own stamps & forms. I glued homemade library cards in the backs of all my books.
  4. Ironically, this obsession was later quelled by 12 witheringly boring years spent working for the Tax Department.
  5. My family nickname is Weanie Beans & has many, equally embarrassing, variations - Beanie, Beans, Queenie, Queena, Kreenie, Reenie...& my Mum's personal favourite...Beans On Toast.
  6. I'm a neurotic perfectionist. People deliberately move my fridge magnets a fraction of an inch, just to torture me.
  7. I have slept through the room adjoining my bedroom being ransacked by a crazed burglar, & a speeding car careening through my neighbour's living room wall (the resulting evacuation attempt by the Fire Department, due to a gas leak, didn't stir me either).

So there you are! 7 things you didn't really want/need to know about Magic Jelly! Jot them down...if I ever become famous, they may crop up in Trivial Pursuit.

Recently Dick & Dora featured me in their blog...thank you! They also have an Etsy shop & make fab jewellery! And Fric de mentol included one of my Benediction collages in an Etsy Treasury list that made it to the front page. Hooray! Thanks Julian for getting a screenshot for me (a bouquet of parsnips is forthcoming) - it appeared in the middle of the night here in the Southern Hemisphere, so I would have missed it. Fellow Etsy sellers Anna Laura, Sherry Truitt & Salmon Street Studio also kindly let me know about it - thank you! It's so nice to see such a great collection of artists make the front page - it was an honour to be among them!

Finally, thanks again to everyone who took part in my giveaway - the winners' prizes are all in the post & on the way to their letterboxes.

Toodle-loo for now!

I Love...Mary Blair

Hands up who's a lifetime member of the Mary Blair Appreciation Society (if there is such a thing)? Meeeeee!!! I've loved Mary Blair since I was little & first read I Can Fly. Isn't it funny how kids study things so intently? Well I know every brush stroke of every illustration from that book, & when I recently got hold of a first edition copy & flicked through its pages for the first time in over 30 years, it was like being dumped over the head with an ice-cold bucket of 'OMG, I remember that!' My favourite picture was the one I've featured here, of the little girl as a make-believe worm in her fuzzy green beret & matching cardie. I wanted an outfit just like it when I was 5 - so stylish!

The beauty of Mary Blair's work is that it's just as fresh as it was 50 years ago, & her influence extends into the 21st century with so many artists (either consciously or otherwise) borrowing a little something (or a lot) from her style.

There's so much I could say about her work - about her amazing instinct for colour, how much I love her textures, the way she uses paint, etc, etc - but what I love most is her energy & spontaneity, the boundless sense of joy, & most of all, the memories her art evokes.

If you'd like to find out more about Mary Blair, Wikipedia is a good place to start. You can also check out some more of her work at the ASIFA Hollywood Animation Archive & Cartoon Modern.

The illustrations I've posted are scanned from my own collection as follows...

Top Left: from the front flyleaf of The Golden Book of Little Verses by Miriam Clark Potter, first published 1946.

Top Centre: also from The Golden Book of Little Verses.

Top Right: from the endpapers of The New Golden Song Book.

Above Centre: from I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss, first published 1950.

Below: Two spot illustrations from The New Golden Song Book, first published 1945.