My first art journals

I’ve started an art journal

Oct 11, 2008 by Asphyxia

I've started an art journal

I have started an art journal. I’ve kept a diary since I was twelve years old, and it often includes drawings, photos, collage… But they’ve been more writing than art. I want to try a new way. Something more visual and less text based.  Here’s my very first page.

I thought I didn’t have time to journal.  All my creative endeavours feel totally out of reach.  But Paula grabbed this sketchbook, set it in front o me along with Jesse’s watercolours, and said, ‘Do a page while you wait for dinner.’ And I did. And now I’ve done something creative after all, and it’s done wonders for my soul.

How did this happen?

The Grimstones has been successful beyond what I could ever have dreamed possible. Right now we’ve got tours booked in for the next two years, to every corner of Australia, and every day I get more enquiries about the show. It’s wonderful, thrilling, exhilarating, to realise that something that was simply my art, made with my own bursts of inspiration, has turned out to be so inspiring for those who see it. I have performed on the festival circuit for the last twelve years – and when I made The Grimstones, it was the festival circuit I had in mind, though I was also thinking the show would also be suitable for theatres. As it turns out, the interest from theatres has been so overwhelming that we’ve hardly even looked at my old festival circuit. We are up there with the big players, like Circus Oz, The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Theatre Company, Polyglot and more.

But unlike these big players, we don’t have an office filled with admin staff. All we have is me, and my mac, struggling to keep up while doing the most incredible learning curve of my life as I try to get the hang of theatre touring jargon, conventions and requirements. Eerk. And there you have it – instead of making art I have been chained to the computer, doing admin, as you can see from this page here:

I've started an art journal 2


An Email Addiction

Oct 13, 2008 by Asphyxia

An Email Addiction 1

Someone asked me, “Do you have an email addiction?”

I realised check my email several times a day, especially when I get home after being out, and it’s my way of “coming home”. Paula checks the phone, I check my email – sounds fine, right?

The problem is, it means I walk in the door, put my bag on the floor, open my computer, and suddenly, bang, I am in the middle of work, regardless of whether it’s working hours.

I’ve set some limits:

– Do not check when arriving home.

– Think carefully before checking

– do I really plan to work now? Is there time or are we going out soon?

– Don’t check email while in the middle of doing another task on the computer.

– Choose when I’m going to work, and ONLY check my email then.

– Never, never EVER check email during the evening. (The one time I broke this rule in the last few months I got a really stressful email threatening to pull the plug on a tour I was totally relying on financially – I hardly slept that night. Now when I think about checking after 7pm, I remember that and close the computer.)


Heading for a nervous breakdown?

Oct 16, 2008 by Asphyxia


Years ago, after a very stressful time in my life, something weird happened in my head. I couldn’t see properly. My eyes were fine – it was my brain that didn’t work right. I’d walk down the street and instead of seeing a road, traffic lights, cars, fences, houses, I’d see a mix of shapes and colours that were so overwhelming I couldn’t turn them into a coherent picture.

Scary stuff. I couldn’t lipread properly either, and socialising became very different. I had only recently met Paula then, and she invited me to stay with her. She was a sweetheart, looking after me. It took six months though, for me to feel right again. In that six months I hid at her place, painting furniture and staying away from the intensity of the world.

Driving in the car in July, I felt the beginnings of that shapes-and- colours thing again and it scared me big time. I’ve known for a while I’ve been running on empty. I hit burn out in April, then I’d pull back just enough until I felt marginally better, then I’d power on again.

I did this page in my journal about it. Something’s got to CHANGE.


A good old fashioned convalescence by the seaside.

Oct 19, 2008 by Asphyxia

A good old fashioned convalescence by the seaside.

That’s what I figured I needed. How to achieve it though? And when? I went through my diary and figured that if I honoured my commitments and gigs for the next two weeks, then I could spare ten days away. It would mean cancelling all of Paula’s and my rehearsals to make the changes we wanted to make to the show. Not great but I just needed to think of 6 months out of action to reckon that 10 days could be a wise and timely offering. Paula agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to cancel our rehearsals. She didn’t want to go away though, so I started planning, dreaming, about a trip to Anglesea for Jesse and me.

A good old fashioned convalescence by the seaside 2


A rest at the beach

Oct 22, 2008 by Asphyxia

A rest at the beach 1

My convalescence at Anglesea was wonderful, blissful. I stared out the window, gazed at the fire, and played with Jesse. I stayed off my email. And did some pages in my journal

A rest at the beach 2



Oct 25, 2008 by Asphyxia


Anxiety attacks are the pits. I made a page about it in my journal.

My email doesn’t run my life any more

Oct 27, 2008 by Asphyxia

My email doesn't run my life any more

After I came home from Anglesea, my strange shapes-and-colours problem totally disappeared. I have started to feel normal again. I have been very careful to have at least one pyjama day every week, to stay on track.

Pyjama days rejuvenate me so much.

My email addiction might still be there – I can get home and find myself wanting to check, but mostly now I can walk in the door and not even think about it. I go whole days every week without checking at all. I’m not always kosher but I’m pretty good at keeping my email in check. And these days I have much more sensible work hours too. I keep it to week days, morning to early or mid afternoon, and then I STOP, regardless of how ridiculous the to do list remains. Mostly it CAN wait.


On the road with The Grimstones!

Oct 29, 2008 by Asphyxia

On the road with The Grimstones!

Finally it’s started! We are on the road with The Grimstones.  We’ve a big year ahead, touring, and I already see that we’re going to have to be SO MUCH better prepared for our next tour. It’s exhausting! I couldn’t believe how trashed I felt after just two days of shows.  We’re going to need to cook in advance. Get everything caught up.



Nov 4, 2008 by Asphyxia


I’m revamping my life, bringing back creativity. Those balloons that were out of reach.  I’m grabbing them back now.

It seems ironic that The Grimstones was hours and hours of happy happy making, but now it’s turned into a ball and chain, a life of admin and computers and no energy for anything after I’ve performed a few shows.

I’m making a doll-art installation for my desk. I have an idea for a wheat-bag Matroshka doll I want to sew…. and making page after page in my journal has helped me to stay in touch with art and being creative.

By making pages that don’t matter too much, I find I can experiment broadly, and when I find something I like I try using it again on a different page in a different context. It’s wonderful – I feel I’m learning so much about putting together journal collages.

My hand writing is improving too – it’s still totally messy but I can write in a few different “fonts” now which I could never do before.

I can’t recommend strongly enough an art journal as a way of being creative and expressing yourself in an ongoing way. It’s given me such a thrill, and keeps me in a creative headspace so that I’m constantly collecting inspiration and ideas to try out.



A new way of Journaling

Nov 12, 2008 by Asphyxia

A new way of Journaling

I’ve been having a wonderful time trying out Teesha’s method of journaling:

1) put a colour wash over the page

2) add collage pieces around the edge

3) integrate the collage pieces by scribbling over and beside them with crayons and pens

4) I’ve been playing with fonts and swirls – it’s great to learn to write a different way.

Well that’s my version of her method. Check out her tips here.



Gothic Doll Art Installation

Nov 16, 2008 by Asphyxia

I told you I was working on an installation for my desk. Finally I’m happy with my first piece.

Gothic Doll Art Installation 1

It’s called:

Gothic Doll Art Installation 2

And brings to mind babies in humidicribs instead of snugged up to their mamas; the plethora of medical intervention which seems almost inevitable for babies these days.

Gothic Doll Art Installation 3

I’ve been reclaiming unloved and discarded dolls from the op shops, painting them to relieve them of their garish smiles and blue eye shadow, and making up little scenes, like this one, in which to feature them. You can see a half-completed doll in the mirror.

Gothic Doll Art Installation 4

And how I made it? I took wooden box I found in the op shop, and covered it with papier mache – pieces torn from an old sewing pattern book. I had a bit of scrapbooking paper leftover from The Grimstones, and I used that as the background for wallpaper.

I drew a chandelier out of cardboard and almost died trying to cut the thing out – very fiddly. But after a coat of black paint and mounting it on a piece of chain from a broken necklace, and it looks great.

Gothic Doll Art Installation 5

The bed was made with armature wire which I glued to a foam-core base. And the chest of drawers are also made from foam-core board.

Gothic Doll Art Installation 6

The inspiration was from a magnificent magazine, Selvedge, that was sent to me by Jenine, the ever-talented designer who has poured hours into our Grimstone stuff. The magazine is amazing. I was inspired by images of dolls house furniture made from cardboard, dolls in boxes, and mummified reclaimed dolls. It got me going, so thanks Jenine, for the fabulous inspiration!

Gothic Doll Art Installation 7


Off to Queensland

Dec 8, 2008 by Asphyxia

Off to Queensland

Once again we’re leaving home, for almost two months. We’re touring The Grimstones to Woodford Folk Festival and the Sunshine Coast.



My New Art Journal

Dec 13, 2008 by Asphyxia

My New Art Journal 1

I made myself a new art journal, out of an old book from the op shop.

It was called “The Art of Arranging Artificial Flowers” but I’ve renamed it: “The Art Of Arranging Authentic Thoughts.”

I printed images I liked from magazines and the internet to collage onto the cover.

Inside, I paint over the old pages, sometimes leaving a flower photo or bit of text to show through.



Dec 15, 2008 by Asphyxia

A really simple page in my journal. Spots.


Being a Mama

Dec 19, 2008 by Asphyxia

Being a Mama 1

I’ve been working too much this year to be the mama I really want to be.  But I’m getting it together now, and my journal is helping me make plans and carry them out. Just recently, I’ve been having a beautiful time with Jesse.

Being a Mama 2


The Ideal Week?

Dec 24, 2008 by Asphyxia


I’ve been wondering lately, if there is such a thing as the perfect week?

I made up a schedule to see if I could fit everything in.

It looked great.  Full and with a beautiful balance.

And then I realised I forgot to put in WORK. Bummer. I think I’ll have to rejig 🙂


Mind Dump

Dec 27, 2008 by Asphyxia

One of the things I love to do in my journal is a mind dump. A quick few sentences about all the stuff that’s buzzing around in my head. It helps to clear my head.

Mind Dump


The perfect pack for travel

Aug 30, 2009 by Asphyxia

The perfect pack for travel

I’ve got the hang of how to pack when we are travelling. I can live out of a school sized backpack, though I’d like to add in a portable hotplate because I don’t like eating out for every meal and I get sick of salads.


What skills will we need?

Sep 11, 2009 by Asphyxia

What skills will we need

I started this art installation back in March. I got a book from the op shop which I cut into to make a hollow. On the page at the back I added gesso and water colour paint to partially obscure the text, and then drew my picture of the city. It’s no particular city but you can see buildings from Melbourne in here – note the Victorian Arts Centre! There is supposed to be a doll standing at the front, and I was planning to have a rusted out ruined toy car too. But I’m having trouble finding the right doll and the right car. I got the perfect car but it’s really a bit big to fit. I painted a doll from an op shop, but she has too much hair and it covers too much of the picture. But I feel the need to post this any way, even though it’s a work in progress. I’ll post another photo when I’ve finally resolved the doll and car problems!


The hand that rules the cradle rocks the world

Sep 14, 2009 by Asphyxia

The hand that rules the cradle rocks the world

I’ve been planning to make this piece for over six months now, but I just couldn’t find the right dolls, the right boxes, the right anything. My darling friend Jenine gave me a copy of the catalog from Julie Arkell’s exhibition, Home, and I was SO INSPIRED I committed again to working out how to do this piece.

I found two dolls I had that were too big for any of the boxes, and decided they would go together.  (I needed a doll with weird hair – and I had one that I made ages ago but frankly I think she’s ugly, and that was putting me off.  I ditched her and focussed instead on a doll that was bald with a weird patch of velcro at the top of her head.)  I made the box out of scrap timber I had left over from The Grimstones, and then I was up and running. My sister Cal told me she’d love to do more art with me, so we sat down together to work on this over two separate sessions. I had gathered together everything I needed in a kind of kit, along with a drawing of how it was all to fit together. We worked and gossipped for hours, having the best time. Cal papier-mache’d the box with the paper I had cut out from the book I posted in my previous entry, and she painted the dolls, handing them to me so I could do the faces. She also made the incredible cones of hair for the mama – I love them!  I made the rest of the stuff.

As we were winding up, I showed Cal the catalog from Home and she too was incredibly inspired. Immediately she made a tiny bunny, which you can see in the hand of the mama in the box. I am so delighted with the bunny I am absolutely in love!

A few close ups:

The hand that rules the cradle rocks the world 2
The hand that rules the cradle rocks the world 3

The hand that rules the cradle rocks the world 4


Art Installations on my desk

Sep 20, 2009 by Asphyxia

Art Installations on my desk

This is a photo of my desk. Isn’t it looking gorgeous? I rearranged it so I could fit in the new piece my sister and I made. Now it’s got four installation pieces, though the blue book still isn’t finished. Since my sister made the papier mache bunnies, I’m thinking maybe a papier mache doll is the answer to my problem for the blue book. Hmm…

On top of the box on the left you can see the doll I originally made for the blue book – but her hair is just way too big and obscures the city. Hanging on the clothesline is a ripped off piece of the blanket my mum made for my cot when I was a baby (yes.. a security blanket – I call it Brown Rug), then there’s a papier mache dress that I made, and then Jesse’s and my Magic Token. We found it in the park and had such a beautiful game of making magical spells with it – I put it up to remind me of the good times and feeling like I’m a wonderful mama. Then there’s the bunny Cal made me. And finally a tiny framed picture of my beloved grandmother, Moo, who died when I was pregnant with Jesse.

I try to keep my desk as a shrine to what’s important to me… but of course it doesn’t always look like this. Picture it with piles of bills to pay, admin to get to, contracts to sign, orders for books to send off.. and you’ll know how it normally looks!


I’ve got a new art journal

Nov 4, 2009 by Asphyxia

I’m whipping through my art journals. I write or doodle or something nearly every night before I go to sleep. My “new” journal is an old biology text book I found in an op shop:

I've got a new art journal 1

I've got a new art journal 2

The book is an introduction to the innards of my heart.

I've got a new art journal 3

I am loving, loving loving getting bits of text in the book, drawing boxes around them and making use of them in my pages.

Another thing dear to me just now is bike riding:

I've got a new art journal 4

And of course, making art.  I just couldn’t resist the exquisite bit of text on this page, “Reveal to us something natural and something beautiful.”  Who would have thought a biology textbook could be a fount of such poetry?

I've got a new art journal 5

Another very big part of my heart is dancing.  A few times a week I dance for hours and hours and it turns me on like I’m having an affair.  The high it gives me is incredible.

I come home trashed and exhausted the next day but full of blissful happiness.  Once again, my biology textbook had just the text for me to use, and I glued in a drawing I scribbled on a piece of scrap paper last week, when I was waiting for our show to start at the theatre.

I've got a new art journal 6

Centre stage in my heart is the love of my life, Paula..

I've got a new art journal 7

Candle Chandelier Inspiration

Dec 20, 2009 by Asphyxia

Candle Chandelier Inspiration

I want a chandelier. I’ve wanted one for years.

Wandering around a scrap metal yard, I found inspiration. It was filled with Victorian household metal-ware. Teapots, plates, candleabras, cups, saucers, weird broken miscelleny, all somewhat squashed, dirty and utterly ornate.

Perhaps I could learn to cut metal and weld? If I could, well I can just see a chandelier made from ornate teapot handles, teapot lids upturned to make candle saucers, ornate light fittings transformed to be the centrepiece, and delicate floral teapot legs decorating the underside of everything.

I feel so inspired I’m almost dizzy.

I won’t have time to do this for a while though, as we are heavily rehearsing and making props for our next Grimstone show. And I’m also working on a book..


“Raise Your Own” art installation

Apr 12, 2011 by Asphyxia

Raise Your Own art installation

It’s been so long since I did any art (other than writing books for Allen and Unwin, and illustrating them, which is definitely a form of art – but a commissioned one, so it counts as work), that I have gotten out of the habit. Trying to find the right headspace seemed impossible. I’ve wanted to make this piece for over a year, and so I wouldn’t forget about it, I had a drawing tacked to the stairs, showing how it should go, complete with instructions for what colour to paint each item. I’d even assembled a kit, back when I did the drawing, of the various components I planned to use.

I sat down and got started, by doing the easiest thing: paint house black. One thing led to another and by the end of the day I was fantastically inspired – I’d gone into that special, magical headspace where I felt I could invent anything. My sister, Cal, came over half way through the day and worked with me. She made the fish, altered and painted the chook on the roof, and made gorgeous tiles for the roof of the house.

This whole piece represents my dreams – I hope one day to be able to raise my own meat, fish and honey as well as the vegies and fruit I grow now.

I’m really pleased with it – I think it looks beautiful.

Raise Your Own art installation 2


Homemade Journal

Apr 29, 2011 by Asphyxia

Homemade Journal

I’ve loved my repurposed books as journals, but sometimes I’d like to be able to start a page without having to paint over it first.  I looked up how to make my own hardcover book.

Homemade Journal 2

Homemade Journal 3



Art Journal Bottle

May 2, 2011 by Asphyxia

Art Journal Bottle

Another journal page.  The figure was from a card by C Serpent – I love her work.


Gone Fishin’

Oct 13, 2011 by Asphyxia

Gone Fishin'

Max took me fishing, not once but three times! We only caught two fish for our efforts, but at one point something pulled so hard I thought I’d be swept into the ocean.  Then my line broke. Max said he thought it was a shark.

Read about the next part of my journey to become an artist.