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!

8 and 10

Passed cystoscopy number 10 yesterday. Maybe it was because I’m on a week’s holidays, but I was pretty blasé about this one. No drawing even!

On the bus to the hospital there were a group of Down Syndrome teens on an outing. It was a sunny day and they were having an infectiously fun time. But it also made me intensely grateful for the health of my two daughters. Why do we need reminders to feel it?

It was my wife who remembered it would be 8 years nearly on the dot since my first surgery. Cancer and family deaths in the past have given me bursts of motivation, seize the day, etc… but it never lasts. My life is going well and I wallow in happy complacency, feeling a moment of guilty regret after a night of bad television. Should have done some drawing. Looking at my gut in the mirror. Better do some exercise.

There’s a blank board on my desk waiting to be drawn on, a bookmarked headless CMS waiting to be downloaded, a novel synopsis waiting for the difficult second half, and a blog post waiting for a pithy ending. How lucky is that!


As a family we weren’t really that resilient. We all need extra time and space to ourselves to keep our equilibrium. If we do more than one thing in a day we feel frazzled. Travelling to Japan was the crucible for that.

We really surprised ourselves with some crazy adventures of endurance. The epic train, bus and icy mountain climb to spend a half hour at the snow monkeys was the high point. We all had our moments of losing it, but we pushed through and got some great rewards for it. Crepes after 9pm in Harajuku anyone?

This idea came together on that journey, rollercoasters and bullet trains and giving yourself up to the ride. It doesn’t look much like what I initially imagined, with arrows peppered everywhere and blood. It also doesn’t have much of the zen asymmetry of Japanese prints I was aiming for, but it does have a ludicrously accidental mirroring of the banner and the serpent!

Despite being a bit of a train wreck of mediums it needed no resilience to draw, coming together in a two week purple patch of late night sessions. The unexpected revelation was after a week or so of repeated scribbling, trying to get the feel of the coiling serpent in tiny thumbnails, I threw caution to the wind and just started on the big A2 board. The freedom of big drawing gestures was amazing, so I’ll have to start going big and to hell with the practicality.

I just have to learn how to take good photos instead of scanning!