27 February 2009


We visited the lovely Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens on Sunday and picked up some beautiful plants. Aren't these gorgeous!! You can view more photos of the gardens at my Flickr site.

And these are little Orchid babies!! They are growing in Agar in their nursery bottles which are sterile and airtight. Later I will need to pot them up. I've got an instruction sheet from the orchid grower and also did a bit of research on it on the web. Wait for this ... it can take anywhere from 2 - 10 years for them to flower!!!! You obviously need a bit of patience for this hobby then! I will keep you informed on their progress.

23 February 2009

Illustration Friday - Instinct

I've been torn between posting this illustration or another image I'm currently working on this week. I've decided to go with this for now as I can see that the other will take me a few days to complete - it's quite detailed. Hopefully I'll be able to post it later this week. This image is actually two sketches for a woodcut I did a few years ago. I actually prefer these to the print which lost a lot of detail in the cutting process and anyway, it's too big for the scanner. I've digitally combined the two sketches into one image for this post.

Here is my cat, who instinctively knows the best place for sitting is either on 'her' portfolio, work in progress, keyboard, recipe book...... etc, etc!

20 February 2009


I was browsing in the children's section of a book shop this week and found this book, Timbuktu, by Paul Auster, adapted and illustrated by Julia Goschke. I really liked the illustration on the front (it's so true that the cover illustration sells the book) gave it a cursory flip through and bought it to add to my growing collection of 'children's books with interesting illustrations'. Well, this book certainly does have excellent illustrations by Ms Goschke, but be warned - in my opinion it is NOT suitable for young children.

Timbuktu, published by Penguin's Young Reader's Group, is a picture book that tells the story of Mr Bones, a dog in the city struggling to understand his old homeless master's life and to learn what it means to fit into human society. Sound a bit heavy? Well, yes, I think it is. This is a dark tale which opens with the death of Mr Bones's owner and ends on an even darker note: this dog decides he wants to join his old owner again in Timbuktu (the after life) and plays with the traffic - in a nutshell, dog death by suicide. How awful! I certainly wouldn't want to try explaining that to a young child, would you?

In the pages between we try to follow Mr Bones's journey as he finds new owners and attempts to come to terms with his new life (which even includes a visit to the vet to be neutered). The story is oddly disconnected and often it's unclear what's actually going on - twice I thought I'd turned over two pages by mistake! Following the thread is also not helped by the, at times, almost unreadable type - the name says it all, 'Misprinted Type'! And, ( if you can bear it) there's more! The vocabulary is just too complex - 'quantifiable substance' and 'infinitesimal slights and injustices' are just a couple of examples that I can see needing much explanation to young readers!

Hmmm, so what do we have here? On the one hand Julia Goschke's vivid illustrations are certainly very appealing. They have impact and with skillful use of light and texture they imaginatively portray the emotions of the story. But on the other we also have a story dealing with social issues and ideas that young readers will not grasp or may even be frightened by. What on earth is this book doing on a shelf along with the likes of 'Each Peach Pear Plum', 'Hairy Maclarey' and 'Mucky Pup'? It clearly doesn't belong there. Well, according to the publishers' website, this book is actually aimed at children aged 12 and up. Yet, nowhere on or in the book can I find mention of this. Alright, so perhaps these older readers will appreciate the content but tell me this - would a self-respecting 12 year old still want to read a picture book? For this is what it is and not the graphic novel it may be masquerading as. Timbuktu seems a bit of a misfit then. Such a pity as the illustrations are so well rendered!

(A page from the book. Click to view this and a few more of Julia Goschke's wonderful illustrations in a larger format.)

I wonder how many bookshops make the error of placing Timbuktu on the picture book shelves and how many unsuspecting parents have bought the book for their youngsters?

The morale of this story then, I guess, is not to buy on impulse or better still read the book from cover to cover before you buy!

18 February 2009

IF - Celebrate

So, just what do little mice in Holland do to celebrate? They put on their clogs and dance, of course! (Click to view larger).

As I was painting the mice for Illustration Friday I remembered that years ago, when I was living in Holland, I had painted these little Dutch characters in traditional costume on wooden eggs!

16 February 2009

7 things I love

I am indeed honoured to receive this lovely art blog award today from the talented Christine Grove of Sunshine Hill. Thank you Christine! In accordance with the rules I now have to list 7 things I love and pass on the award on if possible. Listing is easy, but tagging is more difficult as there are so many wonderful blogs out there! Anyway, here goes first with a list of my 7 loves (not including my family, friends and cat, as that goes without saying), nor in any special order of preference:

1. I live most of the year in the tropics, but when we visit Europe, I do love to walk in the countryside, particularly in the English Lake District or West Country. The bluebell woods are magnificent in Spring.

2. My lovely Malaysian garden filled with the scent of the gorgeous Frangipani flower which comes in pale pink, dark pink and white. Hmm, heavenly!

3. Japanese hand silk-screened paper. The colours, textures and patterns are so beautiful.

4. The sheer delicacy of a dragonfly's wing. (Click for a closer view).

5. Delicious, icy, crisp, gooseberry/citrus-flavoured New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine.

6. The combination of turquoise and coral in jewellery.

7. Fragrant, spicy Thai food. The photo shows Mieng Kham which is a delicious appetiser - you just place a small spoonful from each bowl (roasted coconut, peanuts, chilis etc) onto a leaf, add some sauce, wrap the leaf and pop into your mouth. Scrumptious!

Now I'm going to pass the award on to the following very creative people. Be sure to check out their inspirational blogs!

Cathy of One Pink Goose
Monica of msc4Art and Books
Andrea of Andrea Joseph's Sketchblog
Cati of El camino a casa
Louisa of Mousetales
Gennine of Gennine's Art Blog
Roberta of A Mouse in the House

P.S. To those I've nominated, please do take the award, but don't feel obliged to keep tagging if you've been tagged recently - I've noticed that many creative bloggers have stacks of awards and imagine that it becomes pretty time consuming to keep listing and tagging!

13 February 2009


I took loads of photos last Sunday when we went to the Bird Park - I've selected just a few to post here . KL's bird park has the largest walk-in free flight aviary and is well worth a visit - it's a beautiful place to stroll and view many species.

Sleepy owls!

These two birds are gorgeous - they're Asian Fairy Bluebirds! The male has the more brilliant coloured blue plumage.

I love these little guys in their multi-colour outfits! They were really inquisitive and enjoyed the seeds and posing for the camera!

Bad hair day?

9 February 2009

Chinese Lion Dance

Here are some photos from the Chinese Lion Dance we saw this weekend at our local Chinese supermarket. We've seen numerous lion dances during our years in Hong Kong and Singapore, but this was the first acrobatic display we've come across. It was a riot of colour and sound, a lot of fun and well worth watching.

Traditionally, the lion dance, which is believed to usher good fortune, as well as ward off evil spirits is performed at Chinese New Year as well as for business launches and the welcoming of dignatories. Legend has it that in the early Ming Dynasty, an evil beast would appear every year at the Foshan area of Guangdong Province. The tormented citizens retaliated by making lions shaped with the bamboo and painting them in brilliant colours. They danced with the lions to the beat of gongs and drums, to scare off the beast.

The lion dance calls for the perfect co-ordination, agility and nerves of steel of two dancers. The first controls the head and determines the movements, while the second dancer, who acts as the body, must work in tandem with him.

The lion's head, which is usually constructed of papier mache and bamboo, complete with eyes that blink and a mouth that snaps, is brilliantly adorned with colourful patterns,fur and glitter and can weigh up to 15kg. A considerably heavy burden to hold aloft while moving vigorously, leaping from pole to pole many feet off the ground! Quite scary to watch too!

Enticed with gifts - usually ang pow (money in red packets) attached to a vegetable - the dancers try to get these gifts, making it look as though the lion devours them. The lions toss oranges from the basket for onlookers to catch. The children love it! The dance is commonly performed to the beat of the tagu (Chinese drum) and gong, accompanied by the clanging of cymbals.


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