Photograph ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Love at first sight when I saw Will Hazzard’s adorable cockatoo with plumage which goes against nature to dramatic effect!
My photograph was taken in Maryborough and this 81.3cm x 81.3cm painting was exhibited at the 38th Hervey Bay Annual Competitive Art Exhibition by Gallery 5 – Hervey Bay Art Society in July 2022.
Established in 1983, this annual art exhibition hosts seven award categories with styles ranging from traditional to contemporary. Will Hazzard’s striking work won Second Prize in the Australian Flora & Fauna Section.
Will is 21 years old and autistic. Art became a form of therapy with his autism diagnosis at age 9. His paintings aim for a connection with animals, the environment and the land on which he lives.
Click below to visit his website of wildlife art.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Ten Days Ten Short Stories
One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.
Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions. The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.
The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet. Edit, edit, edit.
My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!
I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words. For better or worse, here are mine—the three prompts (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were 1. The story’s first sentence must contain only four words. 2. The story must include something being shared. 3. The story must include the words paint, shift, wave and toast.
Artist as a Child
His pose seems unrehearsed. Gavin sits with one shoe raised on the chair, leg bent. His elbow rests on his elevated knee, arm dangling. A persuasive artist, gallery patrons arrive and gladly absorb his relaxed aura.
This unperturbed look is the impression he gives to anyone who doesn’t know him better. Apart from guest appearances, he is an horrendously difficult person to be around.
Oil paint, turpentine soaked rags, brushes, and canvas torn from frames habitually litter the studio floor. Thus I dispute the saying “order out of chaos”. If Gavin could do that, he would never paint a single picture.
One of his latest, and most important works, was completed in an afternoon of ranting and raving when a courier delivered the right set of three wooden easels wrapped in the wrong brown paper.
“It’s for an art installation. It has to be unwaxed brown paper!” He paced the concrete floor. “The whole idea is to paint in situ.”
The courier didn’t want to understand the significance. He was already backing out the door, having encountered Gavin’s artistic temperament once before.
“Take it up with the boss,” he said, sliding our huge door shut with a thud.
Gavin pulled irritably at the neckline of his t-shirt which had seen better days, soon to join the castoffs on the floor. “Sabotaged!”
“I can order a roll of brown paper from the newsagent.” I tried not to sound too down-trodden.
Gavin hissed “Elle, I don’t want stuff they cover school books with!”
I let my office diary drop, scattering a zodiac of tiny seed pods across the work bench.
“Improvise, Gavin.” I said calmly. “You may find it works better without the absorbency.”
I dabble, you see, landscapes. His eyes lit up and I almost heard his brain creak.
He accepted help to shift the easels closer to the window for natural light, jostling unfinished works aside.
We share the art studio, an unusual arrangement for siblings considering one is famous and the other does not want to be.
I had declined to organise tonight’s chat and chew platters, believing that I already fill the role of sales and booking manager so catering was a bit too much. The honorary title of art advisor suits me. Nowhere does it state I must “arrange tiny scraps of organic food on dry toast.”
When our spendthrift patron Lady Augusta arrives, she gives me a quick wave before aiming straight at Gavin to discuss her eighth portrait sitting. Goodness knows where these works end up.
Gavin quickly grabs an illustrated catalogue, head down, apparently ready to discuss technique with a notable art critic. He tells the critic “They want me on the cover.” I wince.
Guests are moving aside as Lady Augusta swoops, all fluttering chiffon and swinging pearls. Nevertheless the exhibition is a success and I sell my lone painting; at the evening’s highest price.
——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——
On a sunny Friday morning, waiting to enter GOMA Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, I did not photograph the great long queue of people. However, there were no privacy issues, every single person was wearing a mask. Patiently observing restrictions, we were all determined to view the European Masterpieces exhibition on loan from The Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Once inside, after a quick squirt of lavender hand-sanitiser, directions from the highly organised gallery staff were followed, and metered groups were ushered through the necessary sign-in to enter a specially designed viewing area. I say ‘area’ but it was more like roaming around inside someone’s home. Admittedly a large home with muted lighting and grey walls but it was what hung on those walls that definitely became awe-inspiring.
The galleries were split into three groups:
1. Devotion and Renaissance
2. Absolutism and Enlightenment
3. Revolution and Art for the People
From Giovanni di Paolo (Paradise, 1445) to Claude Monet (Water Lilies, 1916) I have written a quick overview of my visit—and I only took a handful of photographs. There are 65 works of art on display, and so famous they do not need my documentation.
Deep down I have to confess that the age and history of many of the paintings captured my attention more than the artwork itself. Scary moments frozen in time, dramatic posturing, gloomy scenes were not the order of the day for me. I loved the works with life and action and, let’s face it, realism.
French painter Georges de La Tour’s work ‘The Fortune Teller’ (see main entrance photo above) finally made sense to me when I saw it for real. It’s not about the old fortune teller at aLL.
I liked the ‘essence’ of Lady Smith (Charlotte Delaval) and her children George, Louisa and Charlotte, in this family portrait where she appears lost in thought while her children tussle beside her, glancing at the viewer. The portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (England) was commissioned by Lady Smith’s husband, a baronet and member of Parliament. Expressing cultural ideals of femininity and upper-class childhood, this work was a popular exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1787 the year it was painted.
I wandered past El Greco, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya, Rembrandt, Renoir, et al, and was drawn towards the sound of violin music. I left the dimmed rooms and walked into a brightly lit area where a lone violinist was playing. He finished with a flourish and an elderly gentleman and myself clapped enthusiastically but he appeared a tad embarrassed, nodded his thanks and exited the stage.
Directly behind me was The Studio, a long gallery set out with still life objects for the budding artist to create a modern masterpiece. There is a Renaissance backdrop for live models at special times. My eyes were drawn to the interactive displays and ‘paintings’ which brought the original art to life. Shades of Harry Potter, both clever and spooky!
The theatrette was not heavily patronised and after hearing the big bosses talk, I decided to seek out one of my favourite colourful artists and that is Paul Gauguin (France 1848-1903). His ‘Tahitian Landscape, 1892’ is smaller and less vibrant than I expected. A pleasant rural scene (below left) but not his usual tropical effervescence.
Claude Monet (France 1840-1926) and his sombre ‘Water Lilies’ wished me bon voyage and I was back into the real world.
As any person who frequents an exhibition knows, the exit is via the gift shop. This low-key store had some nice items but I wasn’t feeling it. The Library Café was looking inviting.
When I thought about the great works of art I had just seen, I pondered which one I could single out, which one I thought was the cream of the crop. The pleb in me rather enjoyed a large 1670 work by Jan Steen (Netherlands) ‘Merry Company on a Terrace’ for its rich vibes and domestic disorder. The original is bigger and brighter than the image (above right) shown here.
I think perhaps Covid-19 had something to do with the way I responded to the Met Masterpieces… and it was interesting to see how each century lightened the mood.
To quote architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) “Respect the masterpiece, it is true reverence to man. There is no quality so great, none so much needed now.”
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
12 June 2021 – 17 October 2021
GOMA | Gallery 1.1 The Fairfax Gallery, Gallery 1.2, Gallery 1.3 Eric & Marion Taylor Gallery | Ticketed
When I first picked up Indrani Ganguly’s memoir-style book, I dipped into a couple of stories. It soon became apparent the pages contained a thoughtful mixture of poetry, artwork, travellers’ tales, photographs and fiction stories in a layout designed to gently lead the reader though Indrani’s world.
Chapters are grouped under different headings, the kind of book which anyone can read and everyone will find something that touches them.
The content captivated me with a mix of fact, fantasy and deep emotions initially triggered by Indrani’s return visit to her father’s house and her old room which had been left untouched since she moved out. This is where her thoughts begin to unfold, first with artwork and poems then a retrospective short story about her family titled ‘Menagerie Manor’.
As luck would have it, being a fan of crime novels, the first short story I read was ‘A Candle for Bob Carter’ in which plain-clothed Chief Inspector Bob Carter is on jewel-guarding duty at a swanky fancy dress Christmas party during a hot Australian summer. ‘We’ll turn the air-conditioning up dear,” says Leila as the sound system booms the obligatory yet incongruous ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’. Such a fun twist at the end.
Under the tribute heading Women Worldwide, I read in awe as determined elderly ladies went ‘Walking in the Land of the Gods’. Later I laughed out loud after reading ‘Durga Down Under’ a rather irreverent look at Durga, the Supreme Hindu Mother Goddess. The accompanying poems resonated with me, particularly ‘A Woman’s Solitude’ a brief respite before a hectic day. Under the title Travel Tales, Indrani writes with clarity and insight, transporting me to spectacular locations around the world. My favourite is Shimla in the Himalayas which also has a lovely photo of Indrani and her daughter Gitanjali on rugged little ponies.
In this deceptively compact hardback volume there is a lot to read and think about. ‘In My Father’s House’ is more than a treasury of family memories, Indrani’s words entertained and enlightened me. She is in tune with diverse levels of society and human nature as well as comfortable within herself and her writing.
In her foreword, Indrani says ‘I continue to look both backwards and forwards for ideas and inspiration’. I have already read and blogged her historical novel ‘The Rose and The Thorn’ and look forward to more literary adventures.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Indrani Ganguly was born into a Bengali family in Lucknow and now lives in Brisbane with her husband, son and daughter. She travels extensively around Australia, India and other countries.
She studied English Honours in Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, has a masters in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a PhD on the impact of British occupation on revolution and reform in Burdwan, now in West Bengal.
‘In My Father’s House’ was published 2015 by Unique Publications Delhi, and her novel ‘The Rose and The Thorn’ was published 2019 by Boolarong Press Brisbane.
Indrani’s website: https://indraniganguly139.wordpress.com/blog/
Beautiful designer earrings don’t just happen, they are created by sheer love and dedication and Zoë Collins of Hoodlum Friends says “All the years of fiddling around, making mistakes, learning what it feels like to create things I love, and things I hate (and things I feel lukewarm about)… it all lead down a path to 287 pairs of unique, very limited edition drops, hoops, studs…”
Follow Zoë Collins creative journey and be inspired, and maybe think about treating yourself to an original pre-Christmas gift right now! ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Have you *cough* heard about those earrings I made? NO?! Come on! I’ve been talking talking talking about them, like an excited kid talking about his new transformer (trust me, the kid is non-stop transforminationing).
Earrings are not my first foray into product design. Many years ago I tried my hand at greeting cards. I tried to set up a shop selling prints, I tried Society6, and more recently Redbubble. Most of these forays into selling my artwork were… overwhelming to set up, and underwhelming in self-esteem indicators and sales performance. (Most were well before social media). You see, I had very little experience as a designer and as an illustrator. I knew technically how to make greeting cards, how to set up files for print, how to draw a little — but looking back on those early cards (I still have some! ha!) I can see they are lacking…
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A rather dramatic story is unfolding in my breakfast bowl.
Cereals and desserts have been eaten from this bowl for over thirty years and yet I have never properly looked at the picture on it.
A few days ago I had a shock when I scooped up the last spoonful of my Weet-Bix (similar to the UK Weetabix, both invented by Bennison Osborne, an Australian) and saw there was a castle on the hill. I kid you not, I had never seen that castle before!
Allow me to acquaint you with some backstory. Originally there was a set of six china bowls (15 centimetres or 6 inches across) and originally my parents owned them. Unfortunately porridge, domestic accidents, and heating leftovers in the microwave have whittled them down. Of the surviving two, one has a nasty looking fault line appearing. Therefore, the bowl I have photographed may be the end of the ceramic line. Or the end of the beginning of a coach trip.
So far, so boring—but wait. Although this bowl is old, I have to be honest and say it is not an antique. In fact the picture may have been embossed on like a transfer and glazed over. Never mind, I’m getting to the point, well, ten points actually—
♦ First there is the brooding castle on the hill; quite a substantial pile. A name doesn’t immediately spring to mind but I’m working on it.
♦ Nestled halfway down the hill is a gamekeeper or crofter’s cottage.
♦ In the valley at the base of the hill is a small village. An unaccompanied lady is standing on the side of the unpaved road which runs past the Duck Inn. She isn’t over-dressed and uses a walking cane. Her gaze is towards the two gentlemen opposite, chatting beside the milestone. Perhaps this marker reads “London 100 miles” but I can’t decipher it.
♦ One of the toffs (lord of the manor) is holding a buggy whip. He would not have ridden a horse down from the castle in a top hat. He could be the lady’s son and heir up to no-good, he spends too much time in the tavern. Or she may be his old faithful nanny, instructed to keep an eye on him. Or yet again, she could be the wife of the man canoodling in the middle of the road.
♦ We see two lovers canoodling in the middle of the road. The man is keener than the woman, and a dog is either giving them a wide berth or coming around behind the man to nip him on the ankle.
♦ Unbeknown to the busily occupied people, a cat slinks into the rear footwell of the coach. Earlier he had been shooed away but being a feline named Nosey…
♦ Outside the Duck Inn (a duck is painted on the sign) the coach boy is making final preparations for the horses’ feedbags. He loves them ‘orses.
♦ The coach driver is ready and waiting. He’s heard rumours that Dick Turpin is lurking in the vicinity (if I’m in the right century) and wants to get going well before nightfall. The innkeeper loaned him a pistol and it digs into the small of his back.
♦ Seven people are milling about. At least four are passengers judging by the loading of a trunk on the roof, a well-wrapped parcel in somebody’s hands, and a family group perhaps saying goodbye. The husband could be off to London on business and the daughters are sad but the wife is glad he’s out of her hair for a few days.
♦ Lastly, a curtain twitches at one of the attic windows of the Duck Inn.
There are leafy details in the background and in the foreground the stone wall appears to be crumbling. I have looked for birds but only managed to spy a tiny number 9 in the garden beneath the Duck Inn sign. A maker’s mark?
And that’s it. There are no hallmarks or stamps on base of the bowl except the words “Made in England”. I have no idea if the picture is fake-aged or has been copied from an earlier (original) tableware design.
One thing is for sure, it has given me a good idea for an historical short story. Visual prompts are another way to overcome writer’s slump. Look hard at any image and you will find a story to tell.
Check your kitchen cupboards, your own crockery may have a narrative in the making!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
NAIDOC Week 7 July – 14 July 2019
‘Awaken’ artwork by Kaurna and Narungga woman Charmaine Mumbulla. Charmaine cares deeply about the 2019 National NAIDOC theme, and about the celebration of Indigenous art and history.
“Early dawn light rises over Uluru, symbolising our continued spiritual and unbroken connection to the land. The circles at the base of Uluru represent the historic gathering in May 2017 of over 250 people from many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations who adopted the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Our message, developed through generations, is echoed throughout the land: hear our voice and recognise our truth. We call for a new beginning, marked by a formal process of agreement and truth-telling, that will allow us to move forward together.”
Learn more about poster winner Charmaine Mumbulla.
Indigenous Network https://www.indigenous.gov.au/regional-network
As a National NAIDOC poster winner, Charmaine Mumbulla is excited to be part of NAIDOC history. Charmaine plans to celebrate NAIDOC Week by taking her children to the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and achievements with a community BBQ and entertainment. Charmaine will also be doing some workshops at her children’s school and making their favourite morning tea…Johnny cakes with lilly pilly jam.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
After browsing the magazines at our local newsagent, I head for the greeting card section, well-stocked with original, colourful and varied cards, all shapes and sizes for all occasions.
My eye is always caught by a card which I think would suit the receiver. Even if there’s no occasion on the horizon, I’ll buy the greeting card so I’m prepared.
This bookcase artwork is my latest purchase which came with a shiny gold envelope – I love it so much I don’t think I’ll mail it to anyone!
Title M137 Bookshelves
Designed by Jane Crowther © 2016
Published by Bug Art Ltd, Nottingham, England UK
Another newsagent and stationery shop is undergoing renovations. The dog paintings make a nice change from blatant fashion store hoardings. Balloons or thought bubbles?
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Remember when adult colouring between the lines was all the rage? Pages and pages of black and white sketches bound in bright covers which swept the world and swamped book retailers.
Themes were many and varied from new age, retro, zen, buildings, abstracts, swirls, flora and fauna, all cleverly pitched at adults without the 'adults only' content. It was certainly a fad and the biggest publishing push since Harry Potter hit the shelves.
The idea was that it should calm and relax anyone over 30 but it seemed to be a bigger hit with the over 60s especially those with grandchildren. In the library during craft time, youngsters would often wander off as one or two monopolists relived their kindergarten days with intense concentration. So, perhaps there was logic behind the publication frenzy.
In 2015, I was given the pocket-size publication ‘The Little Book of Calm Colouring – Portable Relaxation‘ which has beautiful quotes to accompany each drawing. I dug out a variety of pencils and doodled when the mood took me. I must admit that I can’t finish a full picture in one sitting so I return later to give it an abstract expressionist tweak here and there.
This kit travels with me on long weekends and the odd holiday but I’m not sure if I will ever complete the book. What I have completed was very enjoyable – here’s a small selection of my pencil handiwork.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
In her “Curious Affection” exhibition, world-renowned artist Patricia Piccinini and her DNA modified beings, credible and strangely familiar, invite us to find beauty in a transgenic social order not ruled by ideas of normality or perfection. I was hesitant about visiting this curious collection but enjoyed the experience.
INTRODUCTION: On a grand scale, the creations of Patricia Piccinini occupy the entire ground floor of Gallery Of Modern Art, Brisbane Australia, with a retrospective of her most recognisable works from the past 20 years. It is Piccinini’s most ambitious solo exhibition to date, running from March to August 2018, with a collection of wall art and immersive multisensory installations – including new works like Heartwood (featured above) and a large-scale inflatable sculpture Pneutopia (not shown) exclusively conceived for the Gallery which rises effortlessly through an opening to the floor above.
* SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND THESE IMAGES DISTURBING *
TAP OR HOVER OVER IMAGES TO READ MY PICTORIAL COMMENTS. Of course, this doesn’t convey lighting or sound effects! My photographs are by no means exhaustive, there were many more art works and hybrid creations going about their daily lives.
Our guide explained most models are made of silicone, fibreglass, polyurethane and human hair – for a deeper understanding, Patricia Piccinini has recorded video stories and GOMA blog shows the exhibition conception to completion.
CLOSING: Like most art, there is more to it than meets the eye. Patricia Piccinini’s works are complex. We are asked to think about our place in a world where advances in biotechnology, genetic engineering, organ harvesting and digital technologies are challenging the boundaries of humanity.
The more I learned about this exhibition, the more I understood the science, the pathos and the dangerous waters we may sail into one day, much the same as the internet was launched on a naïve world. With intelligence and compassion we may learn to create something new without destroying the old.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Katrin Dreiling went from language teacher to illustrator and received prestigious recognition for her picture book illustrations in “The World’s Worst Pirate”. This book, written by Michelle Worthington and published by Little Pink Dog Books, has been awarded Notable Book of 2018 by Children’s Book Council of Australia.
It’s wonderful to have you here, Katrin, I love your beautiful art techniques and I’m excited to learn about your journey as a children’s book illustrator. First, here’s a sneak peek at this special pirate story:
William is The World’s Worst Pirate so does that suggest he’s rude and nasty? Read on…
“Pirates are swashbuckling, treasure hunting, buccaneers of the seven seas. But if your mother is the Pirate Captain and you can’t stand on deck without getting seasick … that makes William The World’s Worst Pirate.” However, young William does have a special talent. Can he use it when the ship is under attack? Save the day, me hearty!
Q&A illustrator background
Katrin Dreiling, originally from Germany, loves to come up with quirky creations that inspire children to get creative. She enjoys giving colourful and messy art classes and says “Children are the true perfect grown-ups. Their hearts and minds are pure and good and it is important to nurture this – I strive to do that with art.” On the studious side, she provided the characters for animated University lectures and Government staff coaching videos that attracted over 320,000 views worldwide. In her free time, Katrin relaxes with her husband, three children and their Golden Retriever.
Q1. What is your favourite part of “The World’s Worst Pirate”?
Thank you, Gretchen, for this interview! My favourite part text-wise is when the Kraken attacks and everyone is supposed to run for their lives. Then there is a silence and Will quietly throws a cupcake to tame the beast. I like the contrast between noise and quietness and that it is such a peaceful, gentle approach. In terms of illustrations I think I like the cover the best. I just really enjoyed doing those ocean waves.
Q2. Of all your creations, who is your best loved character so far?
That would be Anton the Pig. This character has been in the works for a while now and so I really got used to him being around. He is also very sweet-hearted and funny and reminds me of a certain someone…
Q3. Where did the inspiration for this character come from?
Anton and his world are certainly inspired by my German background. The region I grew up in is known for their excessive bicycle riding because it’s very flat. So Anton is a passionate cyclist but I merged the landscape with a lot of ideas I picked up while living in Brisbane, Queensland. The inspiration for Anton’s story, though, came from years of working with children at school and my own three kids.
Q4. How would you describe your creative process on an average day?
My working day usually starts with a good walk with my Goldi to keep him happy and clear my head. Then I usually work down a list of things I have to do for my illustrating business. Once this is done I start creating. This can include simple sketching, commission work or extending my portfolio.
Q5. Do you like working in a group or home-office environment?
I am very happy to work by myself from home but I do seek professional input from other industry professionals on a regular basis. There is the Brisbane Illustrators Group where I made many good friends, WriteLinks and our local SCBWI group. I think it is very important to stay connected in which ever way you prefer, be that online or in real life.
Q6. Was it enjoyable working with writer Michelle Worthington?
Absolutely loved working with Michelle Worthington and would always choose to do so again. She is professional, smart and supportive and I felt very appreciated in my illustrating.
Q7. What is it like collaborating with an editor and publisher?
In the case of Little Pink Dog Books it was the perfect synergy between author, publisher and illustrator. Kathy and Peter Creamer were very inspired to keep this project a creative process which involved everyone in the same measure, and I believe the result reflects this very well. When I worked with other publishers it was a different, yet also enjoyable experience. I had to meet more firm requirements and learned new things along the way. I think you have to be adaptable as an illustrator in order to deliver the best possible outcome for the project.
Q8. Do you like to work with artistic freedom or a strict deadline?
I can do both 😊
Q9. Have you stayed up past midnight to finish an assignment?
Yes. I have worked through nights but if the work does not feel like work it is not a problem.
Q10. Have you ever received harsh criticism for your work?
I have been very lucky so far and mostly received constructive criticism which I value a lot. It’s easy to get too complacent and lose distance to your work. This is why I regularly book in for portfolio assessments with editors to get a fresh perspective on my work.
Q11. What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I mix a lot of media together because I enjoy many things at the same time. I seem to always come back to ink in some form, though.
Q12. What colour would you be if you were an extra pencil in the box?
Q13. What are your thoughts on hand-painted vs computer generated artwork?
It works really well TOGETHER if you know how to.
Q14. Who are your favourite artists and have they influenced you?
Absolutely adore the work of Beatrice Alemagna. She has inspired me to go my own way, like she did. Then there is the quirky and unconventional style of Russell Ayto that I love. I think both artists truly work to delight and inspire children.
Q15. Are you involved in teaching workshops for children?
Yes, I will be giving workshops with Michelle Worthington to children at selected libraries in Brisbane during school holidays in July 2018. Also I give workshops for both children and grown-ups at a bookstore in Red Hill, Brisbane, as well as giving regular extra-curricular art classes once a week at New Farm State School.
Q16. Do you have a special creative goal for this year or is it a secret?
For my Anton the Pig story, I’d like to finish the manuscript and illustrations completely. Also getting published by one of the ‘big’ publishing houses has always been my dream and I’m still working towards this goal.
And this Q&A draws to a close
My sincere thanks, Katrin, for your personal insights into the world of picture book illustrating. I am sure you will reach your goal and I look forward to reading all about Anton!
Hey, is anyone else left wondering who that 'certain someone' is and why Katrin would be a black pencil...
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Katrin Dreiling Illustrations https://www.katrindreiling.com/
I love the homey words and clean, familiar lines of Rachael Flynn’s artwork. She lives on a cattle and sheep farm in a locality called Piambong which is about 25km north-west of Mudgee, NSW, Australia. Her calendar (above) features rural farm life with a quirky theme and seasonal recipe each month.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Can you tell a book by its cover? Sure you can! Just the same as an individual’s personality and clothing can tell something about them, a book lures the reader with an enticing cover image. That visual reveal, a hint of what’s hidden within the book is a very important marketing tool.
A contemporary bookcover, no matter what the genre or category, has to be identifiable. It has to look good on publicity material, it has to create a mood and it has to appeal to its target audience. The font style, back cover blurb and all-important artwork join together to get you interested enough to part with your money. Unless you are borrowing the book from your local library. Nevertheless, you will still be interested in that lurid hardback in your hand because it promises so much…just look at that out-of-context quote from a famous author who said “chilling depth” and “sizzling romance” from a “writer with imagination”.
Millions of modern eye-catching bookcovers are perfectly serviceable and practicable and sensible and don’t mislead the intended reader. It can be argued that bookcover images only hint at a small portion of the entire book. But, as a person who reads books very closely, I disagree. I like to make my own assumptions and not be misled by skewed artistry.
Thus I start my LONG bookcover show-and-tell, documenting that which has annoyed me for some time – the all-to-obvious artwork on bookcovers, those illustrations which give the game away.
- The reveal: I loathe it when the crime bookcover shows the pivotal moment in the book. A dead giveaway! Is that the graphic artist’s fault for reading the front and back page? Is it the publisher’s fault for handing out the last chapter?
- Bookcover clue giveaway: I have just finished a police procedural and the creepy black-and-white cover photo with a rundown house on the hill encircled by barbed wire is actually where the bodies are buried. No kidding, I knew every time the detective went up that hill, he was darn stupid. Or the one with the sketch of a child on a rocking horse holding a scythe over her shoulder – storyline crumbles before it starts. Worth mentioning that a rocking horse was not even in the story.
- Vignettes snipped from a chapter: Like historical fiction “Golden Hill”, where a sketch of the hero is seen on the bookcover leaping across a roof top in true Hollywood style, no doubt aimed at action-loving readers, when the bulk of the story revolves around cruel social hierarchy.
- A mystery novel: Well, murder actually because several people end up getting killed. This illustration managed to ruin the first three punchlines in the first three chapters. Not to mention the good guy is seen working in the downstairs office window when his office is upstairs. Plus the red motorbike heading up the road outside is meant to be him, at the same time. Lovely drawing but couldn’t they have chosen something more accurate?
- Overcooked Clones: There’s the hand frozen in ice (guess how the victim dies) there’s the bridge across the river (guess how the victim dies) there’s the threat (a big dark old building) there’s a corrupt political serial killer millionaire mowing his way through rich widowed neurotic socialites on board his yacht (guess how the victims die) or bones poking out of the earth…black crow…wolf in snow…lonely highway…stark tree…dropped gun…body part…the train racing through the underground station…all overdone crime tropes.
- To quote Tim Kreider, essayist: “The main principles of design—in books…is your product must be bold and eye-catching and conspicuously different from everyone else’s, but not too much! Which is why the covers of most contemporary books all look disturbingly the same, as if inbred.” Which leads into––
- Dark silhouette: I, for one, thoroughly dislike the brooding male or female silhouette in a heavy coat, head down, walking toward a menacing city skyline/bridge on a rain-soaked evening. Boring! The stock standard photo silhouette has been on countless bookcovers for years. Think of Lee Child.
- Expected bookcovers or Clone II: Why does (1) Romance have the obligatory well-developed over-muscled man and well-developed bust-overflowing woman, and (2) Literary fiction has a sedate, toned, almost elegant layout with a design which purrs good taste? (3) Non-fiction is so varied it usually has just a colour photo with a word overlay. (4) Historical fiction will have a woman in period costume gazing at house or hillside. (5) Children’s books, fantasy and science fiction have a place all their own. Renegades breaking up the predictable.
- Flip side: An irrelevant illustration. There are obscure bookcovers like “The Midnight Promise” with two hands shaking as though in agreement when the Promise is nothing like that image. At least it gave me something to ponder.
- World-wide: I’m commenting on English language publications and referring to p-books and e-books. I’ve mentioned arbitrary books I have read and tried not to name them. However, the same book published in different countries gets a different bookcover. This is where designers and image stock can become tricksy. I have seen translated children’s books looking very adult, young adult books looking too adult, and adult books looking sugary sweet, e.g. cosy mystery covers with blood-thirsty content between the pages.
BONUS: Terry Pratchett’s bookcovers by artists Josh Kirby and Paul Kidby tell a detailed story. With fiction, decide how closely you should look. Decide if you want to undermine the plot. You may not even notice pictorial clues! Ask yourself if you are exercising your own freewill, or are you conditioned by a generic bookcover image.
Link to superb 20th century bookcovers from The Paris Review:
Today, the mass market book illustrators, the image makers, appear to acquire design inspiration from their clinical, perfectly sculptured computer programs. Perhaps they should visit an art gallery, or see what’s shakin’ in the real world, then tell that miserable silhouette model to get lost.
Never stop reading!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Postscript : A Tiny Bit of History : Literature has changed in more ways than one over the centuries. Illuminated manuscripts gave way to smaller volumes with dust covers/jackets in 1820s Regency, then refined in 1920s to make hardback books more attractive. Before this the majority of bookcovers were a plain single colour with gold embossed wording and little adornment. Swanky ones did have lithographs or a portrait frontispiece. It is considered that 1930s paperback printing changed the course of bookcover art.
When I was a kid we used to say “Pinch and punch for the first of the month” and I don’t know why. A lot of our practical jokes involved physical actions which resulted in the receiver going “Ow, ouch” and glaring fiercely while rubbing their arm.
This beautiful calendar art was created by Sue Zipkin, produced by Hopper Studios, and I will be sad to see it go. However, its final words are encouraging “Embrace Change”. How many of us will actually do that next year?
“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” — Karen Lamb
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Postcards are alive and well and received by countless friends, family and complete strangers around the world. Complete strangers? This is where Postcrossing comes into the picture.
I first learned about Postcrossing, a postcard exchange group, from a quarterly Stamp Bulletin and joined free-of-charge. The five-step guidelines are easy to follow, the website makes it simple to set up a profile and tweak your settings. Navigate around and check out the stunning and prolific cards received and uploaded by Postcrossing members. Everyone abides by the rules so things flow smoothly between more than 69,000 members in over 200 countries.
SEND: There’s pleasure in finding and choosing suitable postcards and stamps uniquely representative of your own location. Clever members can match a postcard to followers hobbies. It took a couple of weeks for the first postcard to hit my letterbox but I could start mailing out straight away.
RECEIVE: The beauty, variety and quantity I received, often from places I’d never heard of, was impressive. English is universal although you can specify countries and language. Handwritten, never laser printed, it takes a certain skill to describe something about yourself and your town on the back of a small piece of cardboard!
The Postcrossing project was created in 2005 by Postcrossing Founder Paulo Magalhães as a side project when he was a student in Portugal. From 2008 to 2017, 40 million postcards have been sent. Naturally Paulo loves to receive postcards and finding one in his mailbox always makes his day!
Right down to the different shapes of the stamps, and in some cases, distinctly long addresses, I was hooked on the fun.
The Postcrossing website has stats and charts to follow the progress of your postcards and I only had one go missing in action. I think the British postcards were the quickest to arrive and I’ll be diplomatic and not say which was the slowest. Larger countries sometimes lagged, perhaps because of sheer volume – or misguided postal cuts. In Australia, there’s an infinite variety of unique postage stamps and supply doesn’t look like declining any time soon.
This world-wide concept stands strong, despite the challenges of internet and social media. Stamps are still stuck on postcards, timeless messages are still written on the back, and they are still physically mailed to a real address.
Postcrossing friendships are possible via their blog, forum and meet-ups. Due to work commitments, I closed my Postcrossing account and gave many of my postcards to a collector. I kept a few colourful ones to wistfully gaze at on a quiet day.
Post a postcard!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Want more? The Snail Mail mega toons postcard edition
Ever do something just for fun? Sure you have. From an impromptu picnic to cooking a lavish dinner. Sporty things, family things, shopping expeditions or entering a competition in the name of fun.
Recently I designed a book-themed teatowel for fun. There was a prize involved but I won’t dwell on that because I did not win. However, it did spawn this blog piece…
For those born into a dishwasher world, I will elaborate. A teatowel is used to dry crockery and cutlery. It is made of an oblong piece of linen or cotton material, naturally absorbent, hemmed on all sides and printed with a design. The design is printed on one side, in portrait position. Teatowels can be any colour, any theme, but traditionally the same fabric and size. They can also be displayed poster-like on a kitchen wall. The following teatowels are not ignominious!
Tourist destinations sell souvenir teatowels, the most glorious ones are those in public art galleries. Gift shops offer cute ones with flowers, teacups, recipes or cow designs. Craft groups use them as fund-raisers, while cookware stores display matching sets of oven mitt, apron and teatowel with a trendy designer logo.
I have a large proportion of Australian flora and fauna too well-laundered to show here. The examples displayed are the best I could find in the kitchen drawer. A lovely giraffe print from Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo NSW, was singed from a cooking incident. My recently purchased Cecily teatowel (below) is part of a book-themed series from New Zealand. It will not suffer the fate of another limited edition teatowel which, shock horror, was used to wipe the stove griller.
Teatowels sound old-fashioned and domesticated but they can become the focus of teenage washing-up disputes and used as a weapon to flick people. Snap!
Apparently teatowels originated in Victorian England and were used at teatime to keep the china in good condition. Baked goods were often laid on a teatowel to cool or alternatively kept moist under a teatowel. The name is different in different countries, in Australia a dishtowel/dishcloth is used for more heavy duty cleaning.
No doubt there is an online history of teatowels and teatowel aficionados around the world, but I am content in the knowledge that I have owned many useful hard-working ones over the years. Lightly imbued with nostalgia and sentiment, some were gifts, most I have bought, and one I designed myself which is not destined to be printed. That’s a good thing.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
My blog post is laden with afternoon tea foodie photographs
Extra teatowel image courtesy of The National Trust UK
Do you still doodle on a notepad or scrap of paper? When telephones were fixed items, every office had a blotter with notepad and pen handy. Home phones had a dedicated area littered with paper and old envelopes for note-taking or scribbling a quick message with a stubby pencil. Doodling came into its own while listening to your boss rant or your mother dispense advice. It is quite possible that fifty percent of paper used in the world prior to computers and internet access was used for doodling while on the telephone.
It seems we only used half our brain when talking on the phone and, as evidenced today, we had to be occupied with something else at the same time. Lo, mobile phones were born! Or in other countries, lo, cell phones were born! With access to a myriad of mind-occupying pastimes. And you can personalise any device; doodling without pen or paper. I don’t think it’s necessary to launch into the historic progress of communications over the centuries but I can guarantee it will get more and more streamline, more and more accessible and more and more invasive. Computer art is not really doodling…
I love curlicues and my featured doodle was penned while I was listening to a podcast so perhaps there is still a time and place for doodling. I don’t know where that snail came from but I can use any number of tech devices, themes and programs to jazz him up. Do I want to? Nah, think I’ll just leave him on an old piece of recycled A4 paper.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward