A book by its cover

While food shopping at the Prahran Market this morning, this product range caught my eye.

Chutney On the basis of the gorgeous illustrations and packaging alone, I bought two jars. 

One of Indian Light Infantry Fruit Chutney, and another of West Bengal Rifles Mango Chutney.

I don't mind if they sit on my pantry shelf looking pretty for a while.  But I'm sure they won't last long. 

Chutney 2They will be just the ticket for our next roast lamb or BBQ.

The website is rather cute too.  I liked their "History" page.

As I was making my purchases I was thinking to myself how lucky we Melbournians are.  One can eat so well in this city, whether you like to cook it yourself or eat out.  There's very little one can't find.

Daily drop caps

Find of the month.  I just love this idea.  This is so very much my thing.  I found this via Black Eiffel (thank you Rachel).  Daily Drop Cap is a blog that posts a new decorative initial each day to drop cap into your blog.  There are simple instructions on how to do it.  I can't wait to see what other beautiful initials will appear.  Lovely work Jessica, and thank you for making them available for us to play with.

Too cute

I posted a little while ago about a lovely illustrator, Anna Walker.

Anna Walker puddle  

When passing our local bookshop the other day the above book immediately caught my eye.  And it was no surprise to see who the clever illustrator was.

Anna Walker friends There are three of these books in the series and they are irresistible. 

The illustrations incorporate fabric cutouts, so there's lots for us fabric addicts to admire.

Wouldn't the panda make a cute softie.

Anna Walker panda

Couldn't resist

Max and Tom have become voracious little readers - a habit I actively encourage.  We often end up in bookshops topping up our supply of chapter books and other treats.

Our bub-to-be, when she is old enough, will be very unimpressed with the selection on offer in our house.  Other than some lovely classics from my childhood or well-read godparents, there is shelf after shelf of books on road construction, marine life, emergency rescue vehicles, spy kids, trains, space, natural disasters, dinosaurs and the like.

Little cat So when I found myself browsing in a bookstore with the boys the other week I couldn't resist this beautiful book

The illustrations are just sublime, and the colour palette so appealing.

Even the boys appreciate it (it is about a large vehicle after all.)

Little Cat 1

The illustrations are by Anna Walker.

Little Cat 2

A school bus in the perfect red.

Little Cat 4

Even the back cover is irresistible.

Little Cat 5


This term I have continued with my botanic illustration classes.  You wouldn't know it though, based on the output.  Every Tuesday morning (when I make it to class) I spend a lovely 3 hours with some very talented artists.  The class is a mixture of beginners like me and women who have been taking classes for as many as 12 years.


I'm aiming for quality over quantity.  This little baby is all I've turned out this term.  It's not much to show for over 10 hours of class time, but unlike the rest of my life - rush, rush, rush - I'm enjoying this quiet and still interlude in my week.


Will grew up on a family farm about two hours from Melbourne - a beautiful, magical place.


Will's mother is an extremely talented designer and gardener.  She rescued the 100 year old garden in the mid '70s from the overgrown and rundown state the previous, elderly owner had left it in.

Farm_wisteria walk 

The farm was sold two years ago.  Keeping a large garden in a near perfect state was not something Will's parents wanted to continue with into their seventies.


I was lucky enough to enjoy it for the 12 years Will and I were together before it was sold. 


I have missed it, but it's only since I've taken up botanical drawing that I really yearn for it.


How I would love to sit with a sketch book, drawing flowers in situ, in any corner of that garden.  At this time of year the riverbanks and the wildgarden beyond the walled garden are a sea of yellow as the daffodils come into bloom.  Our corgi in the photo above is sniffing along a huge bed of hellebores.


Now I have to track them down in the florist if I want to sketch them.  I'm really kicking myself that I didn't take up this enjoyable pursuit 5 years ago, so I could have spent lazy weekend days drawing the many varieties of beautiful and unusual plants to be found there.


I had my last drawing class for the term on Tuesday.  We have a few week's break and then I will start another class with a new teacher.  I'm hoping to put in a lot of practice before then with my watercolours - I definitely need it.

Yay for colour

I am getting so much out of my drawing classes.  I think this is going to be my new obsession.


Our class is very fortunate to have Jenny Phillips as teacher.  Jenny doesn't normally take beginners classes, and hasn't done for years.  Through circumstances though, Jenny is taking us through the basics, so we are benefitting from her great talent and passion for the art. 


This week we started playing with colour.  Using only 6 watercolours, we are creating these colour cards, which will become our reference for matching colour to our plant specimens in the future.  While we were mixing and painting Jenny told us about her tour of the paper mill in an old building in France, and how they make the paper we were painting on - the same method they have used for centuries.


All that wonderful information makes for a much richer learning experience.  Jenny has shown us images of different brands of paper under a microscope so we can better understand how the paint bonds to the paper. 

Colour cards

She has described the fibres of the sable brushes we are using and the way the scales on the individual hairs hold the paint, and why you get a finer point on a sable brush than a synthetic brush.  It's all fascinating.  I never pursued art at school or university so this is all new to me.  I have no idea how to work with paint so I'm lapping up every morsel of information.


My paint palette, with the six colours I will need to create all other colours.  There are two blues, two yellows, and two reds - a cool and warm of each.

A local source

The other day I was reading the lovely Speckled Egg blog (another of my favourites) when I happened upon this post about an Australian based stationery supplier.  I was very excited to read they have a store right here in Melbourne called The Source.


Curiosity got the better of me and I headed into the city to visit the store.  Not surprisingly, I couldn't come away empty handed.  My favourite was this dot grid notebook - quite handy for doodling and getting the scale right.

Monogram Will 

I also picked up some moleskin journals and sketchbooks - that I will hopefully fill with some ever improving botanical sketches.

Drawing class number four

In this class we did a bit of theory on foreshortening.  I confess to not feeling very inspired in yesterday's class.  I couldn't find that zone where the mind relaxes and the drawing starts to come more easily.

Foreshortenend leaf

I was distracted by the mounting number of orders I have to get out.

Mail I'm just about to wander around the corner to post the parcels I managed to pack yesterday.  Fortunately today I have someone helping me pack and ship.  I also have an exploding out basket of items waiting for additional things to be ready with them - like t-shirts that require an applique.  So the parcels ready to go are all the straight forward orders.  It's the outbox that's stressing me.

Better get back to it.

Drawing class number three

Yesterday in class we learned the technique behind drawing realistic curled leaves. This also applies to petals.

Curled leaf how to

We then practiced this technique by drawing and shading leaves that were twisted 4 ways.

Curled leaves

Unlike previous sketches which were drawn from a real sample, these were drawn following the technique and what we had learned so far from shading.


I'm now looking at nature with a whole new appreciation for it's splendour. I don't think this course will turn me into a gardener (so many of the women studying botanical illustration are keen gardeners), but I am compelled to stop and study plants that catch my eye. I also have an array of picked flowers, leaves and other miscellanea sitting around in glasses of water on the kitchen bench.

Drawing class number two

Yesterday I had my second drawing class.


I'm going to blog about my drawings each week as I am interested to see the progress I will hopefully make.


The above is unfinished - I haven't shaded the leaves fully.

I also picked up this lovely book; which includes images of work like this one (by Regine Hagedorn in 1952):


Something to aspire to.

Curled leaf

Next week we are going to be doing more on curled leaves.