A DAY TO REMEMBER


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Today in Melbourne it is kinda cold and drizzly, and I'm sticking to my challenge of not drinking for the month of January. So today I'm finding myself even more out of step with our national holiday than usual. 

For those of you not attuned to Antipodean goings-on, today is Australia Day. This is an occasion usually marked with standard ocker practices like drinking beer, hitting the beach, frying in the sun, being enthusiastic about cricket/tennis/whatever, and barbecuing some stuff while listening to the wireless (radio, that is). 

It's also slightly troublesome because it celebrates the day white people landed on the continent, which, for our country's Indigenous people, doesn't mark the happy anniversary of our country's foundation, but is actually the starting point of decades of genocide, racism, dislocation, and attacks on their ancient and enduring civilisation. 

As a beneficiary of our country's sad history -- i.e., if not for white settlement in Australia, I'd probably be anywhere in Scotland, Ireland or Germany -- I'm in two minds about this day. I'd like to celebrate this incredible land that we are so, so lucky to live on, but perhaps not today. Not if demonstrating our love for this country comes at the expense of respect for the traditional inhabitants, who themselves understand and love her much more than we ever could, and who today have every right to mourn.  

So, today I'm going to stay inside and draw some more, I'll think about all the things I love -- from gum blossoms to weird birds, wide skies to wild oceans, horse dust to Akubras, VB tins to seventies-era Holdens -- and remember at just what cost I get to love those things. 


SKETCHBOOK: STUDIES


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Having a relatively short attention span when it comes to ideas and preoccupations, I rarely draw 'studies' for paintings. I'm never really that well prepared, and am usually just hoping things will turn out OK. Mostly, the image is making a kind of faith-based jump from my mind to the page. 
And, unsurprisingly, it rarely turns out how I'd initially hoped it would. 

So I'm trying to form a habit of working on studies; familiarising myself with what I'm trying to produce. Here's a couple from the weekend, which, as so often happens, just deteriorated into me painting gum blossoms. 

Also, a time-lapse video of me drawing is up on the Volcom blog here. 


ON THE WAY


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Rings by Rejoice the Hands, Coyote Negro and Southset (now Of Earth and Stars); Volcom pants; Jo Mercer shoes; Cait Miers Washed Elegance photo book. 

So, I acquired three really excellent things last week – a car, a banjo, and my Harley boots back from the re-solers – but I have none of them actually here. To wit, the banjo is en route from the supplier, the car is back at the farm approximately 2000km away, and I had to take my boots back to the shop because the glue didn’t take properly in one spot.

These kind of occurrences are totally indicative of my life in general … happy – occasionally disappointing and frustrating – but mostly happy, and forever in anticipation of something good in the works, which isn’t quite here yet. 

ALSO, there was one more excellent arrival in my life last week ...
When we were moving house last year, we found a weird, tentacle-y, potted succulent in our backyard, hidden under a bush. As with anything vaguely interesting that I stumble across, I took it with me.
Then last week it sent out some unusual looking shoots, and I started to second-guess my assessment of it as a benign alien-plant.
It was up to something. 
But, as it turns out, it was just flowering; producing one perfect, five-petaled bloom. I've been told it's a carrion flower -- Stapelia -- which is kind of gross, but the stink is definitely outweighed by the weirdness and beauty. 

SKETCHBOOK: HELL'S GATE AND PARADISE


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Sketchbook pages December 24 - January 4, vintage necklaces and dress (underneath sketchbooks), rings from Coyote Negro and Rejoice the Hands.

Right now I'm feeling a little put off by everyone starting the new year with great health-and-fitness plans and super-new-work-ethics and every kind of world-dominating resolve that comes with a two-week break mostly fuelled by alcohol and too much food. 
Because all I'm starting the year with is some kind of throat/chest infection and I've spent the last three days sleeping/whingeing/watching bad TV shows.

So I'm just hoping that that old new year's adage -- that how you spend the first day of the year is a portent for how the rest of the year will be -- is totally untrue (although, if it were true, wouldn't most people just be hungover all year, which … well, never mind). 

Anyway, I'm not one for new year's resolutions -- or even life goals for that matter. My plan is, as usual, to stick to working hard and see where that takes me. Last year, at least, it took me some pretty interesting and memorable places. 

The only thing I'm highlighting as a possible resolution is to take better care of my health, and to stop pushing myself to burnout. Last year was probably the worst year of sickness and collapsing immunity that I've ever had. It was also the year that I pushed myself the hardest and probably also drank too much, too often. So that's my one thing this year, to try and circumvent that kind of behaviour.

Oh, and I'm buying a banjo. That was one of last year's resolutions, but, whatever. 
When it comes to banjos, I feel like any time is a good time. 



MAGICAL WONDER VIBES


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Just before midnight, we carried a ladder down the street and up the ramp into a nearby level parking lot. A group of maybe 20 people, one after the other, climbed up onto the roof, avoided the thin skylight panels, and stepped over to the edge. From there, we could see the fireworks all across the Melbourne skyline, from one strange outlying building to the heart of the CBD. 
We were laughing and chattering and drinking and half-watching, but we were soon forgetting it and trying to work out how to get down the ladder and move on to the night's next concern, whatever that was. 

So, now I just hope the rest of this new year is full of more moments -- however brief -- that are bright and unexpected and unusual. 

Wishing you magical wonder vibes for the year ahead.

WANDERING: FARM HUES


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On the last two times I've visited my parents' farm, I've found something that I didn't even believe existed there. First, it was the turtles in the river; which, in my 18 years haunting those riverbanks, I never saw. 

More recently, it was a tree-dweller I'd never even looked for. 

So, yesterday we were driving up the side of a mountain in my dad's 4WD. We headed through state forest and into National Parks' land, ricocheting along a washed-out fire trail, past grass trees and native orchids and towering eucalypts that made me feel vertiginous and insignificant and tied to the spiritus mundi all at once. 

I was staring out the opposite backseat window -- looking through the canopy onto the mountains below -- and thinking about how heights make me nervous and acknowledging that I'm an unequivocal valley/coastline dweller, when I spotted someone staring right back at me. 

A koala -- probably 200 metres away -- was sitting up on a branch of a giant, exposed gum, watching our white truck labouring up the mountainside track. And at first, I genuinely thought it was staring at me, personally. 

I yelled for dad to stop the truck, jumped out and ran to the edge of the track to watch the koala more closely. In all our time living with a back fence of bushland, we'd never seen a koala in our area or any neighbouring farms, so were considerably stoked and impressed as he clambered into a more leafy part of the tree and disappeared from view again. 

And while it might seem like just another weird and unexpected animal sighting, for me it underlined the thing I love most about the natural world: that every secret revealed, and every gift received is all blind luck. To me, seeing wild animals in their environment, or finding feathers or skulls or snakeskins, has always felt like finding something so rare and precious and privileged ... and I'm infinitely grateful that I was taught to feel that way about it. 




SKETCHBOOK: LOST IN PARADISE


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What else do you do when you're lost in paradise?

Sit around looking at verdant expanses: watching for rain, for kingfishers, for visitors coming up the otherwise empty road. Spend time talking with old friends about love and expectations and how to identify birds, listen to playlists from when you were in high school, breathe the scent of the horses your neighbours rode over for drinks. Draw, pick hydrangeas, don't walk anywhere without first looking for snakes. Dive into the river -- just once -- without checking for submerged logs. Stand in the kitchen and think about how perfect are the wildflower weeds, the Warhol print, the ginger plants in the blown-glass vase, the pomegranates and the mangoes, the bottle emblazoned with the name of my dad's hometown.

   And I guess that's kinda it.

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