A Room With A View

Version 2Version 2I’m not about to talk about the 1980s film starring Helena Bonham Carter, but about how it is always wonderful to have a pleasant view from the room where you spend most of your time working.  It is very soothing and good for your well-being to have an interesting outlook.  I have two large windows in our studio.  One window overlooks the back garden and the other has a wide view over neighbouring rooftops and of the sky.  Because a large two-story house is soon to be built next door, I will lose the unencumbered view.

This view has given me much pleasure over the years.  I have watched so many aircraft, such as the Air Force acrobatic team, the Roulettes, doing routines before the Australian Football Grand Final or the Melbourne Grande Prix, as well as Fighter Jets and Black Hawk Helicopters doing exercises.  Vintage planes in formations and huge aircraft for airshows have entertained me from time to time.  I often see parachutists descending to a local park and the Goodyear blimp has passed by making its slow way across the skyline.  There have occasionally been spectacular fireworks.  At dusk in the warmer months I see Flying Foxes (fruit bats) flying low over the rooftops on their way to find food and all kinds of birds have flown past this window on their way to who knows where.


Views can keep us connected with the natural world and this is good for the health.  Observing natural phenomena has helped to elevate my mood and made me respect the forces of nature.  There is nothing like the azure blue sky of a bright sunny Melbourne day dotted with cumulus clouds to make you feel happy.  At other times watching the rain sheeting down over the rooftops is always an incredible sight.  When this view is gone I will miss seeing the moon in all its phases low on the horizon, the beautiful sunsets and the dark storm clouds rolling in at different times of the year.  Some storms have been quite scary at times when the wind is gusting at over 100 kilometres an hour and there are lots of dramatic forked lightning but they are exciting.  No matter what it says in the weather reports it is always better to see what is actually happening out the window.

There is not a lot I can do to stop the inevitable so I will have to make the best of things. At least I still have the other window that looks onto the greenery of the garden and can go outside in fine weather.  If I did not have this option I would probably put up lots of pictures and posters of the natural world and fill the room with plants to feel better in the winter months.

I have enjoyed my sky view for a long time and I will miss it a lot.  It might not be the most spectacular panorama compared with some wonderful scenery in the world but it has been mine.  If you have a sky view, no matter how small, make the most of its benefits while you can.  And if you have no view to speak of create one yourself with a virtual window and some posters and plants.


This post calls for a happy song so here is ELO, the 70s British band and proud wearers of satin shirts, doing Mr Blue Sky.

The Art of the Squiggle

A great way to free up your drawing and to think in an imaginative way is to do squiggles.  A squiggle is a random set of various lines drawn onto a page.  Either oneself or someone else then connects these lines to create an imaginative image.  This type of squiggle drawing originated in the Australian children’s Television program, Mr. Squiggle, which ran from 1959 to 1999 and was beloved by several generations.

Mr. Squiggle was a marionette with a pencil for a nose.  He came from the moon in a rocket and with the help of a grumpy blackboard and a presenter, created his drawings using the squiggles sent in by the child viewers.  It was a form of interactive drawing long before children had access to computer drawing programs.  Mr. Squiggle was the brainchild of puppeteer, Norman Hetherington.  He usually did the drawings upside down from the viewer’s perspective because that is the way he would see the page while operating Mr. Squiggle.  Then the finished drawing would be turned right side up and the image revealed.  Here is a five-minute episode of the program found on You Tube.  It is still delightful to watch.

As children, Mr. Squiggle and his clever drawings fascinated Ellie and me.  No squiggle was too difficult for him to transform.  It seemed like magic when the random lines became something recognizable and usually whimsical.  He must have done thousands of drawings over the 40 years that the show ran.

This drawing concept was so simple yet so inspiring for children.  It taught us how to use our imaginations with just a pencil and an eye for the image long before we learnt about great artists and their techniques.  There was no pressure to produce a great work of art. It was about the pure joy of the act of drawing.  And it was something you could do yourself.  We never sent in a drawing to the show but Ellie and I would do this type of drawing together, each transforming the other’s squiggles into a fun image.  It was a great game to play on rainy days.

I still like to do squiggles.  This type of drawing makes you come up with creative and often amusing ideas because you must use all the lines.  You can do it with someone else but usually I do these drawings for myself.  To make sure that the lines are completely random, I close my eyes and scribble on the page.  Then I look at what I have done and turn the drawing around and view it from different angles.  Sometimes it is possible to see an image immediately but at others it takes longer.  It is good to consider all the shapes and their relationship in space from various perspectives.  But eventually something is revealed.

It is not so much about doing a perfect drawing but more about stimulating the imagination and having fun.  If it turns out a bit wonky that does not matter.  And you can always do another one.  That is what is great about squiggles.  They are endless and you can use the simplest of drawing materials.

All drawing should be as enjoyable as a squiggle and it is a way of restoring your childhood creative spirit.

Happy squiggling.


The Worry Tree


I’m a worrier.  Always have been since I was a child.  I’d worry about my schoolwork, passing tests, my health, anything and everything.  I still worry about things and I know it’s a waste of energy.  These types of bad thoughts can sometimes get blown out of proportion so that they interfere with your creativity and stop you from getting things done.  You need to put them into perspective.

The song I’m So Worried by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame sums up this type of worrying.  It’s just ridiculous and you will always find something to worry about if you let everything get to you.  Although I did have a bag damaged by the “baggage retrieval system they’ve got at Heathrow” so maybe that is something to worry about.

As a form of self-therapy I recently created a “Worry Tree.”  I figured I needed more than worry beads to relax me.  Using some pruned branches from our Magnolia, I hung up an object every time I felt anxious about something.  I even made some beaded ornaments from those left from broken necklaces.  By looking for or making something to hang on the tree I find that I completely forget about what is causing my worry and I can relax. This type of diversionary method works because I’m involving myself in a meditative process.

People have attached things to trees for millennia to ease their worries and ask for help. For example in Ireland, Cornwall and Scotland trees are often associated with sacred wells and petitioners attach pieces of cloth and other objects as a prayer or supplication. They are called Clootie wells in Scotland and cloutie wells in Cornwall.

To externalize your worries by attaching a symbolic or written item to a tree can be an effective remedy.  Then you can let it be.  I only wish my worry tree was a living one, although this would be a bit difficult to fit on my desktop.   My worries have now been turned into something fun and creative that makes me feel happy.

On a positive note, being worried has definitely inspired songwriters.  There is The Worried Man Blues, a traditional song that has been recorded by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and many others.  I like Johnny Cash’s version.

Probably the most famous song that shows how stupid it is to worry is Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy .  It deservedly has had millions of views on You Tube.  I love to sing and play this on my ukulele and it always makes me feel good.  A less well-known song of the same title with a similar theme is by Australia’s Guy Sebastian.

Instead of worrying find something that you can do to ease these annoying and distracting thoughts.  Maybe a “Worry Tree” will work for you as well.


The Broken Club and the Half Eaten Atlas

Interesting tales attached to objects are for me what gives them value. The more bizarre the better. The following is a poem inspired by two items and a family story.

The Broken Club and the Half Eaten Atlas

Safely kept were the tribal club and atlas

Left behind by a missionary man

Some friend of an ancestor

Then the club was broken in two

By one boy who

Used it to strike the floor

And the book found under the house

Half eaten by a rat or mouse

Last possessions of Gottlob Rembold

A resident of Sydney

Who went off to New Guinea

Or so I’ve been told

In the late 19th century

And was eaten by cannibals

©Theartistschild.com 2017

There is a story in our family that a German missionary left some of his possessions in storage with a relative.  The Aboriginal war club (waddy) and Stieler’s Schul Atlas are all that remain.  He was supposedly eaten by one of the New Guinea tribes of headhunters and this was why he never returned to collect his things.  The war club (broken by an uncle when young and mended with some waxed flax by me) is the type of weapon used to attack enemies in tribal battles.

While I am usually dubious about the veracity of such sensationalist tales, I think that the story is most likely true because it came from a branch of the family that was quite reliable.  They were very honest and practical and not the types to make up fanciful stories.   Ellie and I thought that we would investigate this further to see if there was any actual documentary evidence available.

The name Gottlob Rembold and a Sydney address are hand written in the Atlas.  We Googled his name and this has made the story stranger and more complicated.  In Sydney in 1881, a Gottlob Rembold at the age of 27 was charged with shooting and wounding his uncle in the chest with intent to murder.  Apparently this Gottlob was a young man from Germany, who came out to Australia in 1880 to live with his aunt and uncle, a farmer, probably after the death of his father.  There was a dispute about a large sum of money in a will that he claimed was his, but his aunt said it was left to her.  Gottlob also claimed that he had been mistreated since his arrival from Germany ten months before.  Gottlob was found guilty but the sentence was remitted with no reason given.  There is a prison photo of Gottlob but we can’t show it as it is subject to copyright and  only available to view by Ancestry.com members.  It is not a mug shot, but a normal studio portrait and he was a good-looking young man.

His was not a common name in Sydney at the time so it is surely the same person.  The atlas has a date of 1876 and this is when this Gottlob was 22 years old and might have been contemplating travel.  After his release from prison he could have gained assistance from a religious organisation and then decided to become a missionary.  Gottlob had been employed as a gardener so this was a change of direction.  Not that it did him much good.

Gottlob’s story is part of the rampant Western Colonialism that took place around the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Probably if Rembold had been a medical missionary or an Anthropologist he would have survived.  As opposed to some of hardline missionaries of the period, they tended to respect the host culture and were not perceived as a threat so usually lived to write about their experiences.  Gottlob must have made enemies if he had such a nasty fate.

Not all family stories are sweetness and light and the sad and bad characters can be just as inspiring as the heroic figures.  Was Gottlob a naive young man mistreated by his aunt and uncle or was he an opportunistic, murderous fortune hunter who turned to religion?  We will never know the whole truth about his end unless we can find a death certificate.  Without more information one can only imagine the mysterious and violent demise of the unfortunate Gottlob Rembold.


To lift a rather dark story the following is a live version of Rage Against the Machine’s protest song Killing in the Name by my favorite string quartet, Sydney group “FourPlay String Quartet.” They can really rock the strings.  Ellie and I saw them perform this same piece in concert and it was electric.  The members of FourPlay are all fantastic musicians and composers and their own music, while influenced by the past, is of our time.   In recent years they have collaborated in performance with Neil Gaiman.  Check them out on YouTube.

All Tied up in Knots


Have you ever found yourself getting really angry at everything and everyone at the drop of a hat?  You bite people’s heads off for no apparent reason and completely overreact to the slightest provocation.  I find this happens to me when I am prevented from doing my creative work, either because there are other things that must be done or someone else is impinging upon my time and space.

Anger is not good for anyone’s wellbeing and can definitely affect you physically.  I get really tight muscles in the shoulders and neck when I’m tense and sitting at the computer for long periods does not help it.  If it gets too painful and I’m all tied up in knots I can’t work at all and painkillers are not something I want to take all the time.   Some people like to punch a bag and scream when they are angry but I find this just revs me up and makes me more agitated.  Trying to relax is more effective.  So is Arnica cream and a hot pack to stop the shoulder tension.

I read in Julia Cameron’s wonderful book The Artist’s Way that creative people who are blocked or prevented from doing what they love become very angry.  I have had periods when I have been unable do any creative work and was unbearable to live with.  I was doing a job to please others and not myself and it was making me miserable.  Luckily I realized that this was not where I wanted to be and did something to correct the situation.  I find that I am happiest when I am drawing or writing or singing and less likely to turn into the viper from hell.  The only downside is that it is harder to make a living in the creative fields, but that is my choice and I’d rather be happy and fulfilled than rich and grumpy.

Daily life can also lead to a lot of unnecessary angst. Some people just don’t get it when you are in your creative zone.  Lately I have been doing a lot of writing and have been working on a fantasy story and a science fiction story.  I find that I go off into another world while I am doing this and any interruptions are very annoying.  When you don’t live alone it can be difficult to get others to respect your space.  Although I have told members of the family that I’m am busy with my writing, they still seem to think because I am on the premises that it is OK to get me to respond to any questions or to interact with them.

I am at my creative peak in the afternoon and early evening and that is often when people want my attention. There is no door on the studio and anyone can yell up the stairs because they know I am there.  It drives me insane and breaks the flow of my writing.  I become extremely grouchy and have to resist the urge to throw something at the source of my irritation.  This is not great for the creative process or household harmony.  I’m afraid I am talking about sibling squabbles that can often become entirely unreasonable on both sides if not dealt with sensibly.

How to resolve this situation?  It is better if you can deal with the problem in a calm manner.  I do try to work when no one is around and then I can give others more time when I have finished my writing for the day.  This can be difficult because when I am are on a roll it is hard to stop.  Sometimes you just have to pace yourself and impose some kind of time restrictions. Stopping before meals is important to prevent family arguments.

It is often the case that the other person becomes angry because they are also feeling creatively frustrated and resentful when you are obviously getting on with your work.  It makes them feel left out as they wish they could be doing something similar themselves.  At these times it is not a good idea to go on about your work or they can be quite dismissive and not receptive to your thoughts.

The old “take some deep breaths and count to three before opening your mouth” is a very wise course of action when things become heated.  Just keeping your mouth shut can also diffuse a lot of explosive situations and walking outside is a good idea.  When I’m fuming I find the most effective method is giving my dog a cuddle because it is impossible to stay angry when you are being licked.

Anger is a destructive force and it does not pay to give it any energy.  It is better to put this energy into your creative pursuits.  Why waste time getting all worked up when you could be enjoying yourself doing what you love.  And remember that other people may also be creatively blocked which causes them to lash out at you when provoked.

It is not easy to stay calm when you are feeling harassed and being hindered from doing what you are passionate about but it is also important to live in harmony with others.  So next time you are about to explode because something or someone drives you crazy consciously stop yourself from going down the anger route.  Life will be so much more pleasant and productive.


Ecstatic about Eggs


I love all types of decorative eggs.  You could say I’m eggstatic about them just like “Egghead” from Batman (aka Vincent Price) with all his bad puns.  Ellie and I have a small collection.  None of our eggs cost very much and many of them were gifts, as well as some being family heirlooms.  I have also decorated some and created one from scratch.

For many people the egg is a major symbol of Easter, of spring fertility and rebirth.  For kids it is about chocolate.  In many cultures it is also the cosmic egg in creation myths.  The egg is the ultimate symbol of creativity and has inspired many artist’s and crafts people to create beautiful objects.

A collection usually begins with one object.  My parents had a Austrian poker work egg brought back from an overseas trip.  It opens up to form two egg cups and has matching napkins rings.  I was always fascinated by it’s decoration and shape so when I saw other interesting eggs on holiday or in op shops I would snap them up.


Austrian poker work egg and Swiss tin eggs

Some of our eggs have been brought back by family members from holidays overseas as gifts.  Our aunt gave us some cloisonné eggs from China and they came with little wooden stands.  I also had some old ones from a relative that are good for displaying eggs.  On a trip to Japan several years ago we also found some lovely decoupage eggs when visiting an exhibition at the Tokyo Museum that depict images from some medieval narrative scrolls.


Chinese cloisonné eggs (back row),  Chinese painted real egg (centre),  Japanese decoupage eggs (left and right centre row) Chinese painted wooden eggs (front row).

Because Australia is so close to Asia it is easy to get Chinese eggs here.  Locally we found some real eggs that were painted with the Animals of the Chinese zodiac, like the horse and monkey.  These are quite fragile and need to be stored carefully.

There are also some Asian plant fibre eggs but I have forgotten where they come from as they were a gift.  Shows you should write things down at the time.

Old egg cups are good for displaying eggs.   We have a couple of vintage majolica ones from Italy: a turkey and a duck, as well as a later goose, all found at op shops.  These are quite fun and painted wooden eggs look great in them.


Polish wooden eggs and Russian painted egg at back


Russian wooden eggs

Old napkin rings are also good for displaying eggs.  They come in all sorts of shapes and materials and make an interesting collection of their own.  I also find large vintage buttons good for stopping eggs from rolling around.

Eggs come in so many different materials and can be an example of various crafts.  You can find interesting ones at local craft markets or specialist craft stores.


Australian painted real eggs and Philippines embroidered fabric eggs


Hand blown glass eggs


African stone eggs, two painted and hand engraved and a black wooden ebony egg


Taiwanese Sodalite egg (left), orange simulated marble egg (centre back), Italian marble egg (right), my talc stone egg (front).

I had a go at sculpting my own talc stone egg.  This caused a great deal of dust and took a lot of sand paper to get the right shape.  I now appreciate how much effort it must take to shape and polish very hard stones.

One year I decided to paint some eggs as table decorations.  The most difficult part was blowing out the white and yolks.  Because I thought I would run out of breath, I used an air brush compressor with a syringe needle attached to the end of the tube.  With too much pressure the egg exploded so it was very tricky and messy.  The blown eggs were then coated with layers of acrylic paint and stippled with another colour to make a textured effect.  I added some gold dust left over from gold leaf that someone had given me and applied it with the varnish.  I think that the aqua ones look like real eggs.  The layers of paint has made them less fragile.

I have a real ostrich egg that I bought at the Melbourne Zoo shop ages ago.  There must have been an excess of eggs in their breeding programs.  Wonder if they made huge omelets.  There were holes in each end of the egg where they had blown out the innards.  These were rather large and not very attractive so I glued in some enamel flower earrings that I did not wear.  This is probably the closest I will get to anything like a Faberge enamel egg and the ostrich did most of the work.  It has such a beautiful creamy shell and is quite heavy.

The following black egg is made from Australian post ice age river red gum found buried in the flood plains of the Murray River.  It is very much like Irish bog oak.  These ancient trees stopped growing about 5,000 years ago and the ancestors of todays indigenous Australians would have been around to see them growing.  This was a gift from a friend who knows the maker.

Version 2

The oldest manufactured egg in the collection is tiny.  It is a novelty made in Germany and sold in Melbourne in the late part of the 19th century.  The egg contains the “smallest doll in the world,” a little peg wooden doll that we inherited from a relative.  Unfortunately some long ago child had broken one of the arms because these are movable.  The limb was long gone.  I had to give it an arm transplant using a tiny piece of matchstick and glue (click on the pictures for detailed close ups).  This was really fiddly and I nearly glued it to my finger.  The doll looks a lot happier.

That’s our egg collection.  It is amazing how many creative ways there are to make decorative eggs and these are only a small sample.  It seems appropriate that a major symbol for creation should inspire all sorts of creative, eggceptional ideas.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.


Autumn in the Garden

Daylight saving has just ended and we have turned back our clocks, but nature does things to its own schedule.  Our garden is in transition.  It is still quite green but the autumn colours and flowers, fruit and seeds are becoming more prominent as the temperature cools.  Today I took some photos because I wanted to record the seasonal changes.

The Japanese Nandina is now a lovely shade of red.  This came from our grandparents and we have had it in a pot for years.  It is a slow grower and has remained this size for ages.  Maybe it is now like a bonsai because the roots have nowhere to go.

We have two varieties of Plumbago, blue and white, and the flowers are still hanging in there.  They are very delicate and have a sweet nectar.  Because the flowers are so sticky the sometimes get all over the dogs, over your pants and sleeves and anything else that comes in contact.

There is a last bud on the Iceberg rose.  These hardy white roses do well in pots.  Unfortunately there is no fragrance.  Our Elephant Ears are looking very lush and have spread to other parts of the garden.  As long as it is shady they survive the summer.  Because we have a mild climate they usually don’t completely die down in winter and bring a bit of the tropics down south.

The Clivia now has wonderful red seed pods (photo left).  We need to watch that our young dog does not eat these.  Ellie planted some in pots so it will be interesting to see if these shoot.

The Chinese walnut tree is also covered in green walnuts (photo right).  When they start to split and the nuts fall to the ground it is a battle to see who gets to them first.  The dogs love to crack open the hard shells and make a mess inside.  I’m constantly yelling at them to go “outside” with the nuts.  Last year the dogs ate more nuts than were saved to dry.

I love the spiky red flowers on the bromeliads.  I think that they look like some creature from another planet.  You can almost imagine that they will suddenly extend from the plant and try to whack you like a type of creepy carnivorous plant.  These flowers last for a long time.

Although Aralia plants are evergreen (photo top left), in autumn some leaves turn a bright yellow then to brown before they fall.  You can see the seasonal transitions on one plant.

Because we do not often get frosts, a long time ago we put our potted Maranta (prayer plant) outside in a very sheltered spot behind some large pots (above photos bottom).  It has thrived although sometimes the purple spots fade in the brighter light of summer.

We also have a Wollemi pine in a large terracotta pot (photo top right).  It is one of the most ancient species of evergreen trees on the planet.  It a pine that also has characteristics of a fern.  We call ours “Wolly” because it is so special.  We plan to plant it in the ground so that it will reach its full height and will be protected by a large Melaleuca tree.  At the moment the tree has bent a bit so will need to put a stake to straighten the trunk.

After I took these photos the sun disappeared and it is now quite gloomy.  I think there is rain on the way and it really feels like autumn.  I’m glad that I made the most of the sun while it lasted, something that we should always remember.