brute force

I tried something different on my day off today. Lacking inspiration I went for productivity over creativity. Busted out the big scanner and set up a production line to scan the last few old sketchbooks.

Back in the day I drew mostly in those books, tight and controlled pencil work. Then I moved on, set myself free to go big on coloured paper, go crazy with different mediums.

There’s a good analogy in there somewhere. Letting go. Colouring outside the square. I also tried brute force to help my mental health, with a big night out on the beers… worked for a few hours!


Our big holiday to Japan was two years ago, and I need to let go.

It was a fantastic trip, to somewhere I’d been dreaming of going since my early teens. We were looking ahead, thinking of other big holidays we’d want to take. New York for my 50th. Venice for Karen, her dream destination. And back to Japan.

Then Covid-19 hit and travel was gone.

We had the photos from the trip as a screensaver, always scrolling past with memories. Two years later I’m still looking, fixating on that trip as a symbol of the world that was. Mourning for that world.

The girls are more focused on our trip to Mildura that’s coming up. The near future not the past. I need to do the same.

ink wheel

It was a practical sort of procrastination on my day off last week, testing out the new inks. I haven’t given up on colour, only the methodology. Washes play nicely with the pencil work, mixes and opaque layers get muddy.

Another day off tomorrow, no excuses!

“muse #5”

I had a small epiphany recently. I’d borrowed a book on the relationship between the painter Klimt and the architect Hoffman.

Always one of my favourite eras, fin de siècle Vienna, I finally realised that the work’s graphic and stylised line work was what I was digging! Whether it’s Art Nouveau or comics it’s the lines and how loose they are that gets me excited. Makes sense of why I was happy with the pencils for “new pantheon” but was really uninterested in the final painted result: the line work was covered up and the shapes became quite lifeless.

Hence this one, whose motivations should be pretty obvious. Black biro in an hour and a half to keep it fresh. muse #1-4 | muse x


Funny that I put a lot of time and effort into the last “happy” picture but this three hour quickie was more satisfying! My motivation and self-worth are still a work in progress but there is progress. Shame the flowering didn’t last long enough.

“new pantheon”

This was meant to be pretty lighthearted, myself as a beer spirit, but he didn’t turn out as fat and foolish as I intended! It was riffing on an old theme, when feeling self-satisfied after giving up weed, the unnatural flesh turned into a cannabinoid satyr. My vice of choice these days is definitely drinking beer.

The most successful part of this picture was the discipline to get it done. I’ve dropped a day of work and set myself the goal of just starting drawing first up like it was my job. Rain, hail or headache. Back in the day I used to wait until I was inspired… life is too short!

On the technique side, I’ve hit a bit of a dead end with the coloured inks. Layering the translucent inks over my Copic shading, or over the grey card, gets muddy and throws out the tones. Using up some genuine blue ink on the background, its shiny shellac surface is almost impossible to scan! The greyscale drawings are going ok, but not sure where to next with colour.

A little smug, muddling up the classical references

Years later, finding the break not as clean

“purse of wisdom”

A mangled metaphor about the abundance of clear lessons to be had in this craziest of years. It initially came from pondering the universal ones.

How can anyone deny the reality of climate change while the country literally burns around them?

Why does it take a senseless racist murder in another country for 432 deaths in custody in Australia to even make the news?

How is the science of vaccinations under attack during a global pandemic?

Then I had some personal lessons to learn. Working from home made me feel disconnected and unmotivated, doubting my abilities while lashing myself with guilt for not being more grateful.

I applied for a new job and lay awake the night after the interview worried I’d get it. But I would have taken it just for a permanent position, out of fear of the future and to run away from my doubts.

Not long afterwards I applied to go back to study, not to learn something new and move forward, but to get a qualification for what I already do. To prepare for a fallback career in teaching, out of fear of being an old has-been designer.

Maybe these lessons are just as obvious from the outside. That rather than give up, I should believe in myself and keep trying. That instead of aiming low I should be learning skills to build the projects I’m passionate about.

Maybe I need to be more forgiving, and not just more grateful.

“drone #3”

I just ignored the obvious, and kept plugging away at this drawing. A moment of stress and tiredness amongst a pretty happy year (obvious elephant not withstanding), that got chosen as a good exercise… mechanical is easier than biological! Turned out better than expected, didn’t quite nail the textures

The first one was youthful feelings of vulnerability and loneliness, and a homage to the mannequins of de Chirico, with a “secret” message in the blocks.

Have to look up the date – 1996?

Only a couple of years back, 2017. Love those oil can birds!


One last for the year. Really the absolute reduction of this concept, the ball and chain dragging, treadmill spinning, Sisyphean task.

There’s some positive spin you could put on this, maybe it’s all downhill, and it’s been a pretty amazing year… but a pretty tough one in patches. I still haven’t quite gotten hold of the idea of never catching up, of never having an empty inbox, of letting unimportant tasks be done badly or never.

After a lot of drawing procrastination, this one came together quite quickly. Set myself a deadline to do it before the new year. Got four weeks off, going to catch up on all the things I’m behind on…

too hard, didn’t finish

Drawings have been few and far between this year. Not that it’s been a bad year, the time at the Botanic Gardens getting my hands dirty with design again, an awesome family holiday to Japan, but wondering what it was all about. Being more of a manager than a designer. Being more inspired to code than draw. There are no comics where the hero settles down to being a dad and public servant in middle age!

Hence a drawing about my self-image and its changes over time. Which then seemed pointless and self-indulgent – ‘who will ever see it?’ – or more strongly – ‘who would care if they did?’

Ringing ears and dark ales

But then I went out for a boys night and saw some amazing heavy bands at the Crown and Anchor.* They were old dudes, my age, living the dream and smashing it. We ended up talking to some of them outside afterwards, I was confessing my lack of motivation and they were inspiring. Do it for the love of it, do it for yourself.

And I did. Got all motivated and made good progress to a point… then just stepped back to my coding project. Got really obsessed with it, staying up late and on weekends trying to get new things to work. And they did work, and the satisfaction was massive. But no drawing was done.

Intrinsic demotivation

I’ve been doing more management training at work, as well as a great questionnaire about personal strengths. Lots about how to motivate people, and much pondering on how to get it to work with my staff, or my two headstrong daughters! Turns out there’s a whole lot about challenges and learning something new.

So I started comparing coding and drawing. The first seems like a hard sell. After a day of being on a computer at work, sit at another screen at night, mostly in a bare bones code editor typing Javascript that I mostly didn’t understand. Spend weeks trying multiple things, searching forums, just to get a single thing to work. Being elated when it finally worked. Then seeing the next thing I could do to build on it. Loops.

Drawing should be a no-brainer. Something I’ve always loved and is quite meditational. Something that’s always been a strong part of my self identification. Now a thing where my skills are getting rusty, having to spend longer to produce drawings that aren’t as good as they were before. Oops.

This drawing really was the straw that broke the camels back, but also that finally made it clear. The thing I find hardest at the moment is drawing people. With a good reference pictures, and at a big enough scale I can can still get it together. I was really enjoying this when it was all about the perspective and the pen outlines of the canvases. Then it was going to be lots of detailed small drawings of people, often specific people like the family shot set in Japan… the only one that I actually finished.

Too long, didn’t read

At this point you’d be expecting some resolution, some truths, but they’re never that easy. I’m not ready to give up on drawing yet, but there may be a few more posts about writing a novel along the way!

*Thanks again for the birthday tickets cuz!