Category Archives: inspiration – books, music, film, photography, nature

The animator who animates your drawing!


Glen Vilppu’s a brilliant drawing teacher (he was an animator at Disney earlier on in his life), I discovered recently (while confined to bed with a flu – one of the few times I don’t feel guilty wasting time surfing the internet), on youtube with a fantastic analytical method of teaching drawing that makes learning to draw that bit easier and more enjoyable to master.

It’s for the beginner to the professional artist and the goal is to be able to draw the figure from your imagination accurately and with life in it.  It’s an essential skill to have if you create anything involving the figure.


I was taught drawing by a number of teachers years ago. One used the method taught in the Bauhaus which is hard to explain what it was all about now but here’s an article on it. (Though I still have the original notes somewhere.  I’ll have to get them out.)

The Bauhaus method was quite abstract and all about internal ‘forces’. It’s very dry but it did help me to look at the emotional impact of the ‘mark’ itself.

Kandinsky ‘Composition 8’

The other method is using the pencil as the measuring tool. When looking at for example, a person, you raise your arm with the pencil in your hand in front of the subject and compare and contrast the subject’s proportion and shapes in relation to the length of the pencil and also the horizontal and vertical of the pencil. Mostly everyone uses this method. It’s foundational for drawing.

I had a few light bulb moments when watching his videos as I’d been creating figures from my imagination for years but I didn’t use any logical method just my visual memory. That’s ok but Glen’s methods  make the whole process faster.  I’d thoroughly recommend his ‘tools’ as he calls them.

Here he is talking about gesture.

His online Art Academy.

His You Tube channel.

His store which sells manuals, cd’s and downloads.

If you can’t afford to buy the manuals and CD’s etc  you can read the books for free on google books.


Miles Davis’ album cover for ‘Bitches Brew’

MilesDavisBitchesBrew-by Mati Klarwein-frontcover

This is the cover of Miles Davis 1970 ‘Bitches Brew’ album. I was listening to this amazing piece of free floating jazz recently and suddenly thought who did the almost equally amazing cover as I was admiring the way the wave was rendered. (And the red and blue colour combinations which is one of my favourites.) I’d never thought to ask earlier. Thanks to the magic of the internet, in a second I discovered the artist was Mati Klarwein.

Never heard of him but what a surprise. His artwork is quite amazing. Take a look. Mati Klarwein’s old website and new.

Bob Dylan at Stockholm’s Waterfront Congress Centre


Bob Dylan came and went like a gunslinger at Stockholm’s waterfront congress centre the other night- singing with his legs splayed like he was ready to shoot or ride a horse. It was funny. And not loud by any means-the 6 piece band- 2 guitars and one pedal steel– played this constant, quiet chugging and alternatively fluid rhythm like a country and western lament behind Bob’s craggy, barely there voice which strangely would rise up at the end of nearly every lyric line. Like the old nuns in school! Maybe that’s right. Spirituals are one of the foundations of the blues.

The whole feeling of the concert was like some old style Americana minstrels arriving and disappearing into a prairie dust storm on the back of a Ford pick up. Well that’s what I was imagining as I was being put into a trance by the steady rhythm.

All the songs from the 60’s to now had been rearranged away from their original versions into an almost easy listening (to my ears) mix of country and western, blues and other genres so that it was like listening to entirely new songs. To me the original versions won easily. But it was still amazing to hear these versions.

I mean he’s 72 now so you do what you have to do. Though he seemed to look and get about like a much younger man. Bob is a true artist. His look, voice, piano and harmonica playing are the antidote to todays airbrushed sound ‘perfection’.

I was never a huge fan of Bob Dylan in the past, (post about Chronicles here) mainly because of his voice. But as I’ve got older it’s the stories in the songs that attract now.

Here’s the beautiful A Simple Twist of Fate which he sang and which you could recognise.

A Simple Twist of Fate (1975)

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones
It was then he felt alone and wished that he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate.

They walked alone by the old canal
A little confused I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burning bright
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate.

A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walking on by the arcade
As the light bust through a-beat-up shade where he was waking up
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate.

He woke up the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere
He told himself he didn’t care pushed the window open wide
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate.

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailers all come in
Maybe she’ll pick him out again how long must he wait
One more time for a simple twist of fate.

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin but I lost the ring
She was born in spring but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate.

Here’s an older post on music: Back up singers from the 70’s

Checking out the opera days in Kuressaare, Estonia

Relaxing in the sun at the Opera Days, Kuressaare Castle, Saaremaa, Estoniaessaare castle, saaramaa, estonia

I took this photo at a cafe around the moat of the Kuressaare Castle in Saaremaa, Estonia. Kuressaare was having an opera week of Georgian singers and dancers at the castle (there was a huge tent attached to one of the castle walls so that the castle was the back wall of the stage). We managed to see a concert of Verdi and Wagner commemorating their birthdays 200 years ago one night which was unforgettable. Everyone was in the cafes during the day. As we were. It was magic.

Taking a break during the opera at Kuressaare Castle

 Here’s a link to the Saaramaa opera days website.

Aqua Sea and Rocks in Chania, Crete, Greece

Oh the sea! How I love you. The sea in Crete was a real surprise. You see the pictures in magazines and you think there’s probably a bit of exaggeration. Well it’s not. It’s just so beautiful. The water so aqua I couldn’t believe it. Not everywhere but in the harbours. And so clean. Swimming in it was deeply relaxing.
And the Cretan light. I overexposed this photo a bit to capture a bit of the blazing brightness which hits you when you get of the plane from Sweden. It’s like someone lifted up the blinds.

Summer Synchronicity at Jan Juc Beach, Australia

I love this beach. The openness of the space. The immensity of the cliffs. The waves. It’s right next to Bells Beach where they have the famous international surfing competition every year. Though most of the time the waves aren’t that big for the competition. This day the weather was good. Synchronicity.

Backing up the back up: back-up singers from the 70’s

Pine and eucalypt gouache painting by Susan WellingtonI was listening to a cd the other day and got to pondering about female back up singers.

They’re really not just another instrument like a saxophone (obviously), though they are that too in terms of pure sound.

To me they kind of function like the chorus of an ancient Greek drama –  directing your attention to the Truth with a capital T. It’s like when they’re singing lyrics about our crazy earthly paradise, you’re hearing another more spiritual existence going on at the same time through their vocal tone, emotional expression and presence. The best ones add something completely unique as well.

Here’s a few who entered my internal musical landscape.

  • Emmy-Lou Harris singing back up on Bob Dylan’s ‘Desire’ (1976). What an amazing unique voice. Fragile and strong at the same time. To me her voice is completely evocative of the American landscape. Here she is singing with Rodney Crowell a  evocative version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Shelter from the Storm’.
  • Elvis’ back up singers from 1969 to 1977 were the Sweet Inspirations – Cissy Houston, Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell. Unearthly soulful and sweet. Sensational.
  • The back up singers of Lynyrd Skynyrd known as ‘The Honkettes’ (Cassie Gaines, Deborah Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins) singing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.
  • The Rolling Stone’s ‘Exile on Main Street’ (1972) back up singers – Venetta Fields, Clydie King, Tamiya Lynn, Shirley Goodman, Tammy Lann, Kathi McDonald. Yes it is a fantastic album (if you like the blues that is). One of my early favourites. It’s rough and spontaneous and funny. Amongst other attributes. The girls give it a grace and spirituality that it definitely wouldn’t have without them.
  • Venetta Fields (along with Clydie King and Shirley Matthews known as the Blackberries) sang on a huge number of my favourite albums by Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, the list goes on and on. She, along with Carlena Williams, gives Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’ just that extra universal brilliance.
  • Talking of Pink Floyd have a listen to Clare Torry’s vocals on their song ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ from the album Dark Side of the Moon (1972). Absolutely incredible. Technically not really a back up singer in this song but I just wanted to share it:)
  • The New York sound of the 70’s was Bette Midler’s backing singers ‘The Harlettes’. The original Harlettes were Sharon Redd, Ula Hedwig and Charlotte Crossley.


Do you have any favourites?

My love for ‘Hughesy’

The other day my favourite art critic Robert Hughes ( or Hughesy as my friend John calls him) died.

A picture of him looking stunning in his motorcycle gear at a Sydney art gallery was my introduction to him in the 70’s along with his book on Australian art ‘The Art of Australia’.

Robert Hughes with motorcycleI didn’t always agree with his opinions (though mostly I agreed) but I always looked forward to reading them. His enormous sensitivity to art and artists, his humour and wit and his ability to write a write a sentence at once thought provoking, fascinating and beautiful always makes his books a must read. I certainly haven’t read them all but Nothing if not Critical is art writing at its best. And hugely entertaining at that.

My personal favourite is not about art but about Australia. His ‘The Fatal Shore’ the story of Australia’s founding as a penal colony, is to me, his love poem to Australia as bizarre as that sounds.

Here’s a rather horrible scene which describes the final hours of an escapee from Macquarie Harbour, one of two men left from an original group of eight, who turned to cannibalism for survival but told in Robert’s inimitable style.

“When Pearce stopped, so did Greenhill. When one squatted, so did the other. There was no question of sleep. ‘I watched Greenhill for two nights, and I thought he eyed me more than usual.’ One imagines them: a small fire of eucalyptus branches in the immense cave of the southern night, beneath the drift and icy prickle of unfamiliar stars; the secret bush noises beyond the outer ring of firelight – rustle of grass, flutter and croaking of nocturnal birds — all sharpened and magnified by fear…”

Perhaps the comparisons overstating it but it reminds me of Homer’s ‘The Illiad’ with the same combination of horrible human acts and the beauty of nature popping up here and there like a question mark. But I don’t think so.

Rest in peace Hughesy (28th July 1938 – August 6th 2012).

(Here’s a wonderful remembrance from Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.)

“In art there is no progress, only fluctuations of intensity.”

Robert Hughes

Summer book buying in Estonia

Estonia was a country I’d never really heard much about until a few years ago. Growing up in Australia you’d only ever hear of the Soviet Union. The countries that had been forcibly incorporated into it were like out of focus pictures from the past. You couldn’t really get a handle on who they were or what was unique about them. Until 1991 that is when Estonia reclaimed its independence. From that time on they’ve been moving onwards and upwards and outwards to the world.

Reflective of that is the huge amount of books that are published there. It seems everyone takes a shot at writing. And the bookshops are fantastic. Being a painter of course I’m interested in art books which I find difficult to resist. This time we bought a recently released book called ‘Global Estonia- 150 urban settings in art’ by Aavo Kokk and Andres Eilart. (It’s a pair to ‘Brushstroke Estonia’ published in 2011 which we also forked out for.)

Global Estonia bookBoth these books are absolutely beautiful to look at and to read. Basically it’s a collection of paintings depicting 150 cities all around the world painted by Estonians who’ve either migrated through choice or by necessity. Each painting is accompanied with that particular painters history along with more general historical facts.

There’s six paintings depicting Australian cities and I was interested to discover these Australian painters had an Estonian background. Harri Pudersell paints Sydney, Helen Playford -Perth, Anni Luur-Fox -Adelaide, Leeni Aavik -Brisbane, Thomas Andersen – Hobart and one painting depicting the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne by the doctor, writer and artist Mai Maddisson. I’m from Melbourne so of course I thought I’d showcase this painting.

Mai Maddisson 'Westgate Bridge Melbourne (detail) 2000

As a two year old Mai Maddisson had left Europe with her mother after the Second World War and arrived in Australia in 1949. The Westgate Bridge played a significant role in her life as at one end of the bridge is the school she went to after first arriving. At the other was the hospital she worked at as an intern doctor. The bridge is significant to anyone living in Melbourne in the 60’s and 70’s as it collapsed in 1970 while it was being built and 35 men died. But her painting is overwhelmingly positive capturing the brilliant light and energy of it’s locale.

The book serves as a vehicle for the Estonian people to remember and connect with each other all over the world and a reminder for everyone else of the joy and power of art.

Global Estonia- 150 urban settings in art by Aavo Kokk and Andres Eilart 2012

You can read more about Estonia on my travel blog.

‘Everything you can imagine is real.’  Picasso

The Sirius Project by Dr Steven Greer


If anyone doesn’t know about Dr Steven Greer yet he’s a former emergency doctor who has dedicated himself for the last few decades to bringing the truth about extraterrestrials into the public domain. He’s written a few amazing books about these experiences (I’ve read one and you can see and read about his organisation CSETl and all it does at or there’s heaps of videos on you tube.) At the moment he is in the process of creating a documentary film about it and has put out a worldwide request to be a supporter. It’s being produced by Emmy award winning Neverending Light Productions. If you’re interested in having a look or being a supporter here’s the link.


Fantastically the Sirius documentary has been completed and is ready for its big premiere on April 22nd 2013 (Earth Day). Basically it shows that the earth has been visited by advanced Inter-Stellar Civilizations who can travel through other dimensions faster than the speed of light, using technology, the knowledge of which has been suppressed from the public, according to this documentary. Make up your own mind by taking a look. Here’s the trailer.

You can watch the movie online from April 22nd and if it’s not playing in a cinema near you by clicking on the poster below.