For my non-Australian readers, an explanation may be in order: James Cook is the English explorer who ‘discovered’ Australia in 1770. There were, however, around 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations already here; people who had enjoyed vastly complex and varied cultures, and cherished and looked after the land for at least 65,000 years before Cook’s arrival. The flag in the picture is the Aboriginal flag.
A sightless old dog swayed up to me at an art gallery. Turned out he was deaf too. Thirteen years old and in the late, cool evening of his time on earth. No doubt he misses hearing and seeing things, and a puppy’s energy, but he managed a tail wag in return for a pat, still able to savour small joys.
The car designer Harley Earl summed up his design philosophy by asking: “why have just one scoop of ice cream when you can have two?” Which is why the cars he designed for General Motors tended – like Harley himself – to be on the big side. But he was onto something. If ever I am asked to choose my favourite colour, I nominate at least three: red, gold and green (thank you Boy George). Here are some individual pictures made with each of these colours of a citrine gem, a ruby and a lamp, and one picture (of a Tula sewing machine) combining all three.
My high school science teacher, Nobby Brotherton, taught me that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. I am reminded of this every Autumn, when nature chokes off little lives, such as green leaves and bees, and turns the left over parts into something else. Roots recycling.
Hokusai’s pictures of Mount Fuji crop up in all sorts of corners in his woodblock prints, like a drunk uncle in a book of wedding photos. Taking sheaves of leaves from Hokusai’s book, this is my painting of our recycling bin on an Autumn day, with a small vision of Fuji rising from a pile of nature’s raw materials.
I was standing at a traffic light when a retired High Court judge strode up and waited, judiciously, for the light to change. I noticed he was wearing this rather attractive brooch. The stone in the centre (a citrine?) sparkled and winked in the feeble winter sun. It turns out he was wearing the daytime version of Australia’s highest civilian award, the Companion of the Order of Australia. This is Power Jewellery. The night-time version is worn around the neck and, it seems from the internet, is very blingy indeed. The judge was discomfited when I hauled out my easel and began intently studying his chestal region to do this plein air painting, though perhaps I exaggerate and embroider.
It also turns out that about two thirds of the people who can wear this brooch are men. This needs to change. We need to see more women receiving these awards, and being in the positions where they are considered for them. That is just basic fairness and a sensible way to do business. Or do away with these awards altogether and let good citizenship be its own reward, though that might perhaps rob the world of a tiny dot of colour.
The brooch looks good (in a 1970s sort of way) because it was designed by one of the leading metalworkers of the 20th century, Stuart Devlin. It is a stylised, very stylised, golden wattle. Devlin was prolific and extremely gifted. He designed Australia’s original decimal coinage, and his 20 cent piece is about as good as a coin can be: moderately big, heavy cupro-nickel, and with a meditative, fluid picture of a diving platypus on the back. I love it, and only wish I had more of them: say, 5 million or so.
And here is Devlin’s 20 cents …
The prettiest part of the Apollo moon landings must surely have been the golden foil that sheathed the gangly-legged descent stage of the lunar module. It added a festive, easter egg quality to proceedings, and showed up well against the moon dust. This is my version of it, glaring and flaring in the harsh, unfiltered light of outer space.
My favourite painter, Michael Collins, orbited 90 kilometres or so above the first lunar landing. He returned to earth to write by far the best astronaut autobiography, and to turn out loads of fun water colours of all the beautiful things he saw back here; very few have anything to do with space. He is still doing it in his 80s. Lately he seems to have become particularly fond of painting warthogs. He has also handled some mighty weird fame with grace, aplomb, character and humour. He seems like a very nice man. Mr Collins, I raise my brush to you.
I once knew a chestnut horse called Rainman. He had that name long before the movie came out. This is what he looked like. His hair was perfect.