Sunday, April 26, 2015

A COMPASS THAT DOESN'T WORK MAKES ME THE WORST PIRATE I'VE EVER SEEN

The Parakeet and the Mermaid, Matisse, 1952.


Luscious and I spent this evening watching a documentary about Henri Matisse's final years and his rejection of paint in favour of paper cutouts, and it's got me thinking. Incapacitated by illness, feeling the onset of his approaching death, this man in his 80s experienced an artistic explosion. He moved away from the paints and sculpture which had made him famous, and took to cutting directly into coloured paper, arranging them on (often) vast canvasses in a riot of colour and form in a frenzy of reinvention that secured him an artistic legacy even greater, and more respectful, than that which he had already secured. Despite his terminal illness, Matisse's last years were amongst his most productive, and his most revered. I watched, and wondered, not only at his energy and almost supernatural ability for reinvention, but at the way this wonderful craftsman was able to distill such incredible emotion and form onto a page with such sublime fluency, simplicity, and staggering effect.

I struggle with writing, and much of it is, I think, because it lacks the visceral response of visual art. Writing is an intellectualisation, from the formation of the work to the absorption-- while visual art is too, of course, writing involves so many sets of decodifications throughout the genesis of each work that, ultimately, it becomes an intellectual game we play with ourself-- rather than instinctively experience a gut reaction, we, as audience, must trick our mind, rather than our heart, into the experience.

As an author, I find myself reaching for simplicity more and more; eschewing literary tricks and language for simpler words, greater repetition, more linear narratives, and viewing Matisse's work tonight I felt a sense of what I'm reaching for: a visceral, emotional response to form, rather than a response determined by a determined level of intellectual vigour.

Blue Nude (1), Matisse, 1952

The truth is, I'm envious of visual artists. I envy their ability to create an immediate emotional response, to create multiple level of connotative meaning in a single work, to utilise such a range of media and forms when I am, to all intents, stuck with one: my words. More and more, I find myself wishing I had the time to work in a visual way. Retirement can't come soon enough: I need time, damn it.

And at the heart of it, I'm beginning to see that it's affecting what I want to write about, as well. I'm losing my infatuation with the accessories and glamours of speculative fiction. A story about a man painting holds more fascination for me right now than a story about a man building a portal between worlds. It's all just dissembling. It's all just getting in the way. Speculative fiction used to be about stepping to the side and throwing light upon subjects we weren't really able to address head on, but in many ways, that no longer applies.

I feel myself falling away from the rhythms and the beats of the genre that has enfolded me for the last 25 years, yearning for the simplicity and direct emotional reaction that it seems to obfuscate when I try to write it. It's frightening, in a way, because I don;t know what I'm really moving towards, or whether, indeed, I can even define it, or achieve it. But then, I look at my writing career so far, and it's a bucket of mist and obscurity, so what harm can possibly befall me? All my life I've been fascinated by polymaths. I surround myself with their works: Spike Milligan, David Bowie, Reg Mombassa, David Hockney. I analyse their achievements, envy their success, yearn for their facility.

Maybe, having taken such great effort for such small reward, it's time to branch out, to test myself in other ways. Maybe what counts is not the medium but the expression.

Or maybe I'm just full of shit.

Tree of Life. (detail) Stained glass, Chapel of the Rosary, Vence. Matisse, 1948-51



Friday, April 24, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: GREG CHAPMAN

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.


This week, we welcome Australian Horror Writer alumnus, author and illustrator, Greg Chapman:





At the end of a long 7 and a quarter hour stretch at the day job I like to come home, greet the wife and kids, and then go down to my dungeon and paint the walls in blood.

Figuratively speaking.

My dungeon is the literary equivalent of the so called man-cave, but instead of playing pool, tuning an engine or watching sports, I’m tinkering away at my latest horror story or piece of art.

The dungeon is where I find inspiration. On the walls are pieces of my art, alongside a poster of Neil Gaiman’s Nine Rules of Writing, signed by Keith Minnion. In the centre of the room, is my desk atop which sits my i-Mac where I create most of my illustrative work, “Zara”, a half mannequin, I turned into a zombie and about one hundred pens and paintbrushes that I just haven’t had the time to put away yet. I’m a creative person, so of course I’m going to be messy!




To the left of the desk is a small book case containing books I’ve had published or had stories in and more importantly, books written and sometimes signed by my writer friends. These books inspire me greatly; I revel in my friends’ successes and I thoroughly enjoy reading their work. Adjacent to that bookshelf is a much larger one containing the books I’ve collected over the years. There are lots of books by Clive Barker and King, and a hell of a lot of reference books and dictionaries. Dictionaries can especially spark story ideas as I have a bit of a fetish for obscure words. Both these bookshelves are guarded by two skulls I made for Halloween last year.

I guess this is my brain inside four walls. It’s chaotic and covered in words, and charcoal and watercolour paint, but all my friends and favourite writers are here to join me in my madness.

Surely, I’m not the only writer with a dungeon, right?










Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY THINKS TIPPI HEDREN HAD IT EASY

Every kid on every beach or every park you've ever seen......

Apart from the actually 'talking English' bit, I saw this happen once. If you're going to chase birds, know your weight class, that's all I'm saying.


"My buddies here tell me you get a big kick out of chasing seagulls..."

Monday, April 20, 2015

IF THIS POST IS LATE IT'S BECAUSE I'M STILL ON BALI TIME

You'll have to forgive me if I seem distracted: two weeks ago I was standing at the bottom of a forty-foot gorge, having clambered a hundred feet upstream to stand at the base of a fifty-foot high waterfall, halfway up a mountain in the middle of an Indonesian island.

By which I mean, I was in Bali.

Let's be honest: when Luscious organised the trip with her brother and sister-in-law, I was on the 'un' side of enthused. Nothing I'd heard about the island made me want to go there-- everything pointed to a filthy third-world shopping mall fit only for drunken AFL end of season piss-ups and surfer dope-a-thons with bonus dysentery and bombings to deal with assuming you didn't get picked up for not noticing the baggage handlers' dope stash in your carry-on.

Turns out that's just Kuta. And I'm happy to admit just how wrong my preconceptions were, because we found a whole lot to love.

For a start, we managed to avoid the plastic beer-haus atmosphere of Kuta by staying at a villa just outside of Seminyak, rural enough that there were multitudinous rice paddies dotted in between the buildings. As our driver explained, the Balinese grow three types of rice for different purposes-- white for eating, red for ritual meals, and black for religious festivities-- so a significant percentage of the rural environment is held over for growing the crop, something we saw in spades on our next-to-final day when we took a trip up-country to the Old Balinese Kingdom capital of Pejeng to view the National Archaeological Museum.

Before that though, there was a stunning range of experiences: the traditional Aussie-in-Bali market shopping, including a visit to a series of stalls run by a family who lived side by side with their stalls inside an old unused temple; a roadside fish pedicure, with Luscious, Master 10 and I sitting on a bench with our feet inside a whacking great fish tank having our peds nibbled by a swarm of teensy tiny catfish; a hand-in-hand walk along a shell beach with Luscious (I'm a softie. Sue me); the trip up-country through the artist's enclaves at Ubud to view the Museum; a day spent screaming and laughing at the utterly insane Waterbom Waterpark; and to wrap it all up we spent the final night of our stay on a night safari at the Bali Safari and Marine Park, where tigers with heads wider then my shoulders climbed the caged truck in which we stood to feed less than 6 inches from my face.

By the time we stumbled, exhausted and sunburned, onto the plane home, the Battchilder had already started a list of things we'll be doing when we return. I've got one of my own.


The view from the entrance to our villa. Staying away from the plastic FcknOZYEAH! facade of Kuta was the best thing we could have done. It gave us a chance to explore some genuine-- or at least, genuine-looking-- culture without getting caught up in the ugly shopping mall/beer hall environment that was my impression of Bali, and which finds its full expression in Kuta. Lyn's brother and sister-in-law found the villas, and they were an inspired choice: close enough to town to provide access to cafes and shops, but far enough away that we could experience a side of Bali closer to real than I expected.



The common kitchen area inside the villa, just around from the pool and air-conditioned, semi-detached bedrooms. It was hell, I tells 'ee, hell!




Breakfast, round one. Every morning, a fresh platter of fruit to begin the day. It sounds like a simple thing, but we were so enamoured of it that we've brought the habit home with us, and it gives us a huge life each morning. Of course, the $6-each-in-Australia dragonfruit have gone by the wayside, dammit...




The ruins of a beach side temple, ten minutes walk along from the ultra-Western hotel restaurant we ate at one day. I've a fascination for abandoned, ruined buildings such as this. There's such a forlorn beauty about them, such an air of quiet despair. It speaks to something inside me. Also, I totally nailed the photo, which is a rarity in itself. 



Master 10 and Miss 13 go the full Aussie-in-Bali native route: hair braiding and pedicures all round. The girls were particularly taken with the idea that a boy would get the full set, but that's what Master 10 does-- break down perceptions and bring delight. 



Another view of the hair braiding, included purely because it amuses me to see the girls having to stand on the couch to reach the top of Miss 13's head :)



Anyone looking at my hard drive would think I was obsessed with Balinese traffic. Because I was. I spent shot after shot trying to get the perfect image of the slow-motion insanity. This comes close. More often than not, a two-lane road would host three to four vehicles on each side, plus a complete mosquito fleet of a dozen or so scooters: all moving in harmony, all in synchronised motion, no accidents, everyone just flowing along at 30 kilometres an hour ignoring any sense of road rules or logic. Balinese traffic is the perfect democracy. Decided by, educated by, and policed by the people themselves. It's balletic, and I loved it. Also, check out the statue: can they do a fucking roundabout or what?



Fish pedicure. Tiny little catfish nibbling away at your feet for half an hour, while all you can do is sit on a bench with your feet dangling in the water and watch the world go by. You simply must try it. 



Master 10 gets his first nibble. This is what the trip was all about for me: that sense of joy, and discovery, in the arms of my family. 



Also: my wife's an utter babe. A babe at an horrendous, FcknOZ bar that specialised in misogyny, sexual crassness, and a view of Australians that does us no credit at all. But it was good for a laugh, until we realised our kids can read the 'specials' board as well as we can, and it became time to get out and shop.

But the point is: Wife. Babe. Mine.



We spent one day hitting the market trail, because we wanted to do the traditional Oz-in-Bali shopping thing. This was my highlight: a set of stalls inside the owner's house inside an abandoned temple. Magnificent buildings piled on top of each other so that I lost all interest in cheap wallets and board shorts and simply wandered from corner to corner marvelling at the statues and the beauty of the architecture. It was Bali in a nutshell: once you picked away at whatever thin veneer of tourist accommodation faced you, you found unlimited beauty and tradition. That was the Bali I wanted, and I found it in abundance.



Another view. This is someone's house. Their stall inside their house



An hour from Seminyak, past Ubud, we discovered the village of Pejeng, which just happened to be the capital of the Old Balinese Kingdom, and which is now the site of the National Archaeology museum. It's not very big, and there are few exhibits beyond a collection of Chinese, British and Indian crockery that hints at trade links with mainland Asia and Europe going back to the 9th Century, but it's worth it for the architecture-- again-- and these magnificent stone sarcophagi displayed in the gardens. 



Faced with such history, what's a fat man to do but strike a Man of Destiny pose and hope his shorts don't fall off?



On our last night we visited the Safari and Marine Park, and took in a night safari. On a night filled with highlights, having a tiger with a head wider then my shoulders eating a hunk of meat less than  inches directly above my face will go down as unforgettable. Damn the wobbling truck: I have no good photos. This is the best. There's something awe-inspiring about being so close to so much raw, natural power. How anyone could want to hunt animals is beyond me. We cannot allow such beauty to leave the world.



Balinese dancers play with fire in a dance show that incorporated stilt-animals, shield dancing sword fights, and a magnificent, booming drum performance. It was a show my children will remember their whole lives, and was a perfect way to finish our time on the island.



And here they are: the falls I've failed to get out of my system. halfway up a mountain in the centre of the island, at the bottom of a forty foot ravine, with a hundred feet of stream and rock to traverse to stand at their base. Unspoiled (or, at least, as unspoiled as possible) natural beauty; the very definition of 'far from the madding crowd. Luscious, Master 10 and I climbed down, and Master 10 and I made our way to the foot of the falls, where we simply stood and marvelled at the sheer wonder of it all. For a moment, I recovered a sense of peace.



If there is one picture I had to point to in order to define our time in Bali, it is this one. Master 10, all four feet nothing of him, at the base of a fifty foot waterfall deep in the heart of the island, far from the traffic and the markets and the noise and the people. A tin adventurer stunned into a moment's immobility by a sense of wonder at the natural world around him, dwarfed by all the physical aspects of his environment but with his mind and soul expanding with every moment. 

We left Bali with an overwhelming urge to return. There is so much we haven't seen, such a deep culture we've barely scratched. We came armed with half a dozen Indonesian phrases, hoping they would see us through, only to discover the Balinese language itself and the delight shown by the people when we spoke the two or three phrases we picked up-- and what does it say about our culture of tourism that native peoples should be delighted when we learn just a few simple words in their language? 







Friday, April 17, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: KAARON WARREN

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week we say hello to author, friend, lovely lady and awards hoover, Kaaron Warren:



I’m obsessed with other people’s collections. More particularly, other people’s discarded collections.
I once bought a plastic bag full of recipes torn from magazines dating back to 1963 from the junk stall at a fete. The pile must have sat in someone’s kitchen drawer, being added to day by day, week by week. Then she died (I’m assuming it was a woman. Also assuming she died) and whoever sorted through her stuff lifted the lot out, shoved it in a bag and gave it away.

I wrote a story about the recipes but sadly they didn’t survive. A rat died in the box I kept them in in the shed:



I found this set of old postcards at a school fete. Some of them date back to 1917, but most were written in the 1920s.




On the strength of my research into the cards, I applied for and received a Fellowship at the Museum for Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. So very worthy five bucks spent there.

When my mother-in-law died, I asked if I could keep her jar of buttons. Every one tells a story, I think. Rescued from beloved clothing, or ready for the sewing of new items.



I did the same with my father-in-law’s rusty tin of rusty drill bits. Projects completed, projects projected; all in this tin.



I work in a second-hand shop once a week, and we see many, many collections come in. Our stuff is sourced at the tip, so this is stuff that’s been literally thrown away, although where I live, people know that the tip keeps the good stuff and people buy it, so it isn’t considered rubbish.

We’ve had 56 owls. 40 rabbits. 30 sake cups, including one that showed a naked woman at the bottom when you filled it with liquid.

And this is a bag of baby teeth that came in with somebody’s discarded jewellery collection. I’m not taking them out of the bag. You can, if you like.







Shirley Jackson Award Winner Kaaron Warren has sold 200 short stories, three novels including the multi-award-winning Slights, and five short story collections including the multi-award-winning Through Splintered Walls and her most recent, The Gate TheoryKaaron is a Current Fellow at MoAD, researching Menzies, William Ashton, and the Granny Killer.You can find her at http://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com/ and she Tweets @KaaronWarren




Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY PLAYS THE SPACE JESUS CARD

"Yeah, I know. Funny story..."


So the thing about thumbnails is that they're not finished drawings, so occasionally they ca be rather hard to distinguish.

This is Jesus, dressed in a spacesuit, stepping down from a rope ladder onto the balcony of the Papal palace to say hi to the Pope and a crowd of his little followers. No matter what you think, he is not talking to the Easter Bunny in a box at the theatre.

Although I can't help but think that would have been funnier...



Friday, April 10, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: TEENA RAFFA-MULLIGAN

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.


Please welcome Western Australian children's author Teena Raffa-Mulligan:




There’s a little butterfly on the wall just inside the door of my office and that’s probably appropriate because the man in my life says that’s what I am. I suppose it’s an apt enough description. I do flit from one interesting life experience to the next and there’s no question I am a bit of a butterfly when it comes to writing, never settling for long on one project.

That’s not a problem when I’m working on a poem, short story or picture book text. Usually those ideas grab my imagination and won’t let go till I’ve sifted and sorted the words into a satisfying shape. They get stuck in my mind and a lot of the writing gets done off the page while I’m going about my everyday life. I scribble random sentences and paragraphs on scrap paper as they take shape and when I finally sit down at the computer, it’s a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I simply put the various story or poem fragments in the right order and play around with them until all the pieces feel like they’re slotted into the right place.  Easy!






It’s a different story when it comes to writing anything of substantial length. That’s a real challenge for me. The butterfly approach is not recommended. That’s when I do need help. Walking works…so does riding my bike along the beach path, swimming, weeding the garden, sweeping the floor, ironing my clothes. There’s something about getting physical that triggers my creative brain. I don’t consciously think about the next scene of the novel I’m working on but there it is, waiting to be written down. Yet I could sit at the computer all day and be completely lost for words.









So the novels grow slowly and haphazardly. Often I will leave the document file open on my computer and duck in and out of my office as I get ideas for the next paragraph or block of dialogue. Sometimes I do try to be more productive, setting daily word counts and deadlines. It doesn’t work. That’s when I eat, usually almonds and apples. Sometimes cheese or chocolate.








A glance in the direction of the smiling spirit guide drawing on the easel near my desk reminds me there’s no need to force the story – it will come in its own time if I make the space. 





















Teena Raffa-Mulligan is a writer, reader and day dream believer. Her publications include poems, picture books, short stories, early reader chapter books and a novel. 

http://www.teenaraffamulligan.com/











Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY; STEVE CAMERON

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.






I have plenty of ideas. In fact I have notebooks full of them. Bits of conversation, descriptions of places I’ve visited, titles, names, or incomplete jotted paragraphs. Some will be developed into fully formed stories, other will never see the light of day.

All of them inform my writing.

But an idea is not a story. It needs developing, massaging and cajoling. Sometimes an idea needs a violent collision with another idea. And it often takes time.

Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it can take months before a story starts to congeal into existence. As I walk my dogs, mow the lawn, or supervise students in exams, I find these ideas invade my thoughts. And I play with them, work with them, evolve them into stories.
But they’re still not written. And they’re not really stories until they’re words on the screen and saved as a completed file.

2014 was a year of change for me. As a writer, I was nowhere near as productive as I would have liked. It frustrated me. I tried different approaches to increase my writing output, but life tended to get in the way. And excuses. Lots of excuses. So I sat down and made a list of all the reasons I wasn’t writing enough, and created a plan.

A ritual, if you like. Or, as Lee puts it, a fetish.

I bought an old computer, dedicated solely to writing. It has no internet access, no games, no other software. I created a comfortable writing space away from the main part of the house. There are no distracting sounds, no TVs, no fridges calling me. I made a spreadsheet to keep track of daily word counts, as well as monthly and yearly totals and averages.

And I write every day.

Tired? Busy? Got home late? Don’t feel like it? Doesn’t matter. I write, and I write every day. Some good words, some average. But words. Every single day. Six months and counting, now. Not one blank cell on my spreadsheet.

Regular, accountable writing in a dedicated, comfortable space. No excuses.


I’m Steve. I’m a writer. And this is my fetish.









Steve Cameron is a Scottish/Australian writer who currently resides in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. When not writing, he teaches English at a local secondary college. Steve maintains a website at www.stevecameron.com.au












Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GOES BABUSKHA BABUSHKA BABUSHKA YA YA

Time for another cartoon that made it all the way to the inked stage, thereby using my cartooning skills to prove what a great writer I am.

If I could find somebody to carve and paint these, I'd buy them. And give them to my granddaughter.




Friday, March 27, 2015

FETISH FRIDAY: JAMES FOLEY

I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.



Maintaining BOC, or 'bum-on-chair', is the hardest thing for many creatives I know. It’s difficult in the morning to get started on your work and keep at it, particularly if you work from home; it’s so easy to say “Oh I’ll just make another cup of tea” or “I’ll just put this load of washing on” or “I’ll just give myself a break and play a level or three of Lego Batman”. I find my mornings are most productive when I’ve spent the evening before cleaning my desk, tying up loose ends and writing a list of tasks for the next day. Then when morning comes I sit down at the desk at an earlyish time (somewhere between 7 and 9am) and do a stretch of 60-90min focusing just on the first task on the list. I don’t check my email, I don’t check Facebook, I just keep BOC-ing. Then when I’ve worked for a stretch I can take a break, get another cup of tea, put some washing on or whatever else I wanted to distract myself with, and I won’t feel so anxious because I know I’ve already gotten started on the task. And it's much easier to get back to the task when you know you’ve already started.  

Having said all that, those productive days are few and far between. It’s much easier to have a fidgety, unfocused day than it is to have a calm, creative one, particularly if there are several deadlines looming. But if I can keep those simple behaviours in mind - clear my desk in the evening, make a plan of attack for the next day, make an early start at the biggest scariest task the next morning, and refrain from checking email or Facebook until at least morning tea - then I find the day goes smoother and I stay in the flow. 

Music is another big help. From December 2013 - January 2014 I was working full time on the illustrations for The Last Viking Returns; I worked 6 days a week for 6 weeks, from 9am to 5pm and usually later. I had a studio in Northbridge at the time and when arrived in the morning I would start up the computer, open up iTunes and listen to the same playlist. 

I picked songs that had high energy and strong beats; I wanted songs that would keep me BOC-ing and help me focus. And it worked. You can see from the number of plays of each song that I sometimes listened to it several times a day, and I still listen to it regularly. 


These upbeat songs aren’t always appropriate though; often by the time 3:30pm rolls around I’m flagging and I want something softer and more easy on the ears. I’ve got a bunch of albums saved as playlists on the left in my iTunes so I can pull up whatever compliments my mood at the time. 

Having a studio outside of home really helped too. My studio used to be on William St in Northbridge, right up near the intersection with Brisbane St, so it was far enough from the centre of Northbridge to be quiet, but close enough that I could walk down and get lunch. It got me out of the house every day; it’s easy to feel lonely when you work from home. I would park my car on the northern edge of Hyde Park every morning and walk around the lake on my way to the studio, then back again in the afternoon or evening, so I was getting a bit of exercise and a hit of nature too. All those things helped.

Now I work from a home studio, and I miss the morning and evening walks in Hyde Park, but there are good points: I have the dog for company, I can set things up however I want, and I don’t have to pay rent to a landlord for a studio that I don’t always have time to use.  

My desk is covered in figurines and inspirational quotes; I don’t always notice them, but I’ve got them there as a reminder anyway.


I remember exactly where I scored these little ninjas. It was school holidays, I was about 8, and Mum took my brother and sister and I on the train for the first time. I don’t remember what we did at our destination apart from being at the shops, and these little ninja dudes were there on a shelf. I had pocket money to spend, I bought them and I’ve had them ever since. They’ve always been on display somewhere. At one point I was even carrying around the central leader in my pocket everywhere to try and remind myself to be brave … bit daggy but it helped. Now they live on top of my monitor.

The two quotes on the monitor are from two writers - the one on the left is from Michael Wagner (who has it stuck to his monitor too), and the one on the right is from Stephen King. 


This is my favourite Calvin and Hobbes strip ever, because it’s so perfectly me when I’m not working my best. 
Asterix and Obelix are two more warrior totems, reminding me of my favourite comics by Goscinny and Uderzo. 


The viking warrior was a gift from Kris Williams at the launch of The Last Viking in 2011. 
The owl was supposedly made in India, and I bought it in an overpriced Cottesloe gift shop many years ago because I loved it. 
The plasticine figure is a gift from a super-talented boy I taught last year at Mount Hawthorn Primary. 


Another quote, and a perfect cartoon from The Big Issue’s Andrew Weldon - don’t wait for inspiration, just get on with it. 



Prints from Gavin Aung Tan, cartoonist at www.zenpencils.com. If you like these, sign up to his email list and he’ll send you them for free. 


More quotes. I love the Confucius one on the left; whether it was really him or not doesn’t matter, it’s got wit and truth about it.



More quotes. 
I bought the print at a little exhibition about 10 years ago and I don’t know who made it. I keep it there to remind me to try and have fun with my work. 





James Foley is a children’s author and illustrator. His books include In The Lion (Walker Books, 2012), The Amity Kids Adventures (2013), The Last Viking (Fremantle Press, 2011) and The Last Viking Returns (Fremantle Press, 2014).

In The Lion was selected for the International Youth Library’s White Raven list in 2013. The Last Viking won the 2012 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Crystal Kite Award, the 2012 WA Young Readers’ Hoffman Award, and a 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia Junior Judges Award. It was shortlisted for a further four awards.

James is an ambassador for Books In Homes and Room To Read Australia, and is the current Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI Australia West. His interests include comics, film, psychology, science, history (anything nerdy really), as well as yoga and social justice.
He has far too many books in his bedside reading pile.



Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY LOVES MISSUS THURSDAY

Today is my tenth wedding anniversary. There's a blog post on the way about my beautiful wife Lyn, and how she's changed my life for the better, irrevocably and wonderfully. But there's also this, from many a long year ago:

"I knew gold rings were a bad idea."


Love you, my darling.