Marbling show 2013

web invite2

As every Wet season, we are going to have a little party at the DVAA Gallery at Frog Hollow in Darwin, everyone welcome.

This year it’s all about marbling: canvas and paper, framed marblings painted into, journals with marbled covers, spines or end papers, also several ring binders full of older marbling works, new calendar for 2014 (artwork is not marbling but schizographs) and few other things. Natalie has been covering the preparations in her blog(, there are plenty of photos of marbling process in there.

Manta rays

For the past four months I’ve been working on a project: a mate of mate got a contract to refurbish a visitors’ center at a Ningaloo Reef in WA. So we’ve been building brain coral, fake rocks, manta rays and whole heap of other things. Just the two of us. A welcome change from swinging hammer in a boat yard. Today I started loading them all  into a container for the long trip to WA, and I realised that I have no record of any of that work. Frantically running around with a borrowed camera I snapped some of it.


Brain coral took three months of work. Shame that photo does not show a greater detail: all the squiggly convolutions are stippled, weeks of patient work. The whole thing is over a metre high.


First we inflated a metre diameter beach balloon and covered it in plaster. Puncturing the ball we got a clear concave surface to work on. Covering it in half an inch layer of clay, we carved the squiggly lines in, by hand, then stippled the surface of every line. Pouring in a skin of fiberglass we got the first plug, the positive original. We peeled off the clay and smashed the first plaster surface. After repairs to mangled details we covered the plug in silicone to get a mold. Encasing the mold in fiberglass jacket gave us strong base to lay the final product  – in pigmented polyester resin with several layers of reinforcing glass. Sounds like a lot of work? My word.


The square hole in the top of the coral will take a touch screen connected to other displays. To support the computer we glassed in a wooden shelf.


Another screen will fit into a rock. Looks real, doesn’t it?


In reality it’s another dirty trick. Rock surface is a skin of PVA glue mixed with latex paint, applied in several layers into a silicone mold taken from a real rock. You weld together a strong frame from square section and shape the rock with thinner steel rods. Cover the frame with chicken wire and hot-glue onto it the PVA skin of rock. This particular rock took three casts off the same mold. In the end you plaster the inside of the rock to give it strength – I can see little fingers picking at all those details sticking out of the rock surface.


Another part of display is much larger rock, a gantry about 10 feet long and 9 feet tall. Details are painted in light acrylic wash. Even this size rock is light enough for two guys to carry around, complete with welded steel frame inside. Backing is expanded polyurethane foam, to save on weight.


The final use for the rock mold was this Flintstones’ coach. The whole back and left side of the seat is a textured rock taken from the same mold. Unfortunately  I remembered the camera only after I screwed down the whole monstrosity into the container, and I wasn’t going to move it again. Rendered in solid plaster inside, it weights about 200kg, to make it sturdy enough for daily use in the reception area.


Dark timber is merbau (ipil), lighter areas structural plywood. Rock is PVA.


Finally we come to the manta rays. Client ordered three beasts, to hang from a low ceiling. 3-metre wingspan is all that the room can accommodate, so we made a 3-metre master model out of Styrofoam. Covered the shape in a thin layer of dental plaster, and for finer details a skin of wax. From this plug we cast a silicone mold, reinforced with polyester jacket.


You cast the beast in two separate sections, top and bottom, before you sandwich them together (still green) and bolt the clam-shaped mold tight. Pigment, flow- coat, muslin, and fiberglass layers, including the reinforcing for the screws to hang it from, has to be all done the same day. Two halves, then clamp it together. A long day in a hot shed.


We modified the beasts so they didn’t all look the same – shape of wing tips and and the feeding flaps around the mouth. How do you modify  fiberglass? With brute force, angle grinder, heater, lots of bog and patience.


Last thing is to attach the tail which will travel separate from the body. In this view the beast is 6 feet long.

Photos by the author

Marbled journals

We’ve been keeping our best marbled canvas as a private collection, but I recently decided to use them as book covers and send them into circulation.

4marbled chart block

Material is cotton canvas, marbled on cassava starch size with industrial acrylic paints.

5marbled edition

And as usually, once I start making books, I carry on. We have so much varied material on board, that I don’t have to buy anything. The next book has timber covers, a fancy Japanese noodle box out of “aodamo” wood.


1noodle chart block

It is the first book cover I ever made, about 14 years ago, and I kept the original manuscript of “Monsoon Dervish” in it. With the book now in third printing, and the manuscript gathering dust in a storage box,  it’s time to use the covers for something else.

2noodle mandala

Polish is beeswax mixed with kero, then a light coat of shoe-shine.

3inside chart block

Text block is made out of old navigation charts. I went through my eclectic collection of old charts and got rid of around thousand of them. That sounds like a lot, but many were photocopies on bond paper, a thick stack came from prawn trawlers, so charts were dirty, damaged and worn out, contemporary Australian charts are printed on thin paper of poor quality that is no good for book binding. Even though, I ended with 16 thick text blocks of good paper, white on one side, a bit of print on the face, mostly the empty bits with a lot of sea and no land.

7mada cover

This one is a custom-made log book with “pageant” paper text block; covers are hand painted interpretation of old charts from my collection. Madagascar on the front.

8far east cover

The Archipelago on the back.

9jarra shell

Another box in the bilges that got a chop was my shell collection. There is only so many shells I want to keep, especially when I only see them once a year. Timber is recycled jarra from an old door.

10shell detail

I cut the murex with an angle grinder, diamond tip blade.

11three for size

Just for comparison of size: noodle box at left is 200×300 mm (8″x 12″).

Photos by Nat from

Schizograph 3

The last four months of the Calendar.




Yggdrasil, the World Tree of old Norse.


You can tell what I think of TV.


Naturally there will be a thirteenth schizograph, for the cover, but I am still doodling.

Scizograph 2

Funny thing happened yesterday. Wi-Fi on my laptop is dead, so I use public computers to get on the Web. I went to the City Library in Darwin to post another lot of pictures from their computer, I typed in URL for this blog, and I got “Access denied because of content”. I am sure I haven’t used words “Islam” or “Islamic influence” anywhere on my blog. So now it looks like Unicorns and Mermaids are deemed subversive as well.

As all my drawings, this series of Schizographs form  a part of a larger project – this one is a Calendar for 2014 which I hope to have printed by the end of June this year.


Influence of Bierdsley is quite obvious here.


This one owes a touch to Yerka.





The first 13 posts of my Bestiary generated so little interest that I see no point spending the next six months posting something that no one is interested in. I scrapped the whole project of e-Bestiary and we will look at something else.


My love conceived of schizograph about 20 years ago as undirected large scale doodling. She would pick up her Rotring pen and start drawing in one corner of a large sheet of paper and cover the whole surface in doodles until she reached the opposite corner. With time she added sophistication of textures and motives of diverse origin: Harry Clarke and Ernst Haeckel being the towering influences.

Not being able to liberate myself from the compulsion to draw images, I structure my own schizographs around ideas. The current series could be subtitled “Experiments in doodling” with additional influences of Sydney Syme, Bierdsley, Jacek Yerka and Nat herself.


Brain, after Miroslav Bartak.


Dinner was suggested by my schizographing cat.


This is borderline a schizograph, but doodling was unintentional.


Rock art

1main entrance1

A short break from a monotony of my Bestiary posts, a different take on the art.
There is a large cave up in the Gulf, in the sandstone country down the Boroloola way, about 25 km from the nearest road. Until now more of a rumour than a destination, the two guys I met who have actually been there were both raving about it. Last year I tried to reach it on my bicycle, but too much sand on the trail and deep muddy creek crossings turned me back. This year I simply walked in. For the first time on my travels I carried a camera with me – I borrowed Nat’s spare point-and-shoot toy, and some of the pictures were definitely worth taking.
This will be a long post as I have no heart to break it up into shorter sections.

2bottom end
Tunnel cave was excavated by an ancient creek. It’s something like 50 metres long, now high above the present water level at the billabong.

3side windows1
Cave has an entrance at either end, where the water once flowed, a large opening in the middle where the sandstone roof caved in, and several windows in both sides.

4window view

5filligreed door0
Some window entrances are lined with fine filigrees of roots, like some elven ornaments.

The main entry is graced with a layered painting of a couple, two main figures are 6 feet tall, partly covered by later art.

The main body of the cave is painted over with large images; every flat surface of the walls or ceiling depicts something.

9hammerhead god1
Some paintings are easy to identify, goanna, crocodile, emu, dugong, but some are trickier, like this hammerhead bloke here.

11sunburst face


12wax monkeys2
If it wasn’t for the tail, I would guess it’s dancing figures. With a tail, I don’t know – there are no monkeys in Australia.

13rabbit fish
Other images are more enigmatic and some defy any classification.



Rainbow Serpent is represented at least a dozen times in the cave, often overlaying the older paintings. The biggest Serpent, about 14 feet long, was impossible to photograph, as it was twisting on a very low ceiling in the dark stretch of the cave.
Opposite him perched a life-sized emu in red ochre.




19wax snake 1

White dots surrounding this Serpent are not paint, they are blobs of beeswax attached to the stone of the wall.

20fat tick
This was a tiny painting in the entrance. Turtle? Mud frog? Tick?

21acrylic kids1
In another part there was a cycle of drawings done in a different pigment, in a different style, reminding of a modern kids’ drawing, or a graffiti.

22acrylic kids2

23a palette2
Every large cave has its own “palette”, a set of little round dishes gouged into the rock, in which the artists ground and mixed their pigment before they applied it to the walls.

The whole cave is a fantastic piece of real estate, cyclone proof, ventilated and air conditioned. This is a cattle country, so flies are abominable, swilling around you in their hundreds. Tight wrap-around sunglasses keep them out of your eyes, mostly, but there is no way of driving them away. The moment you enter the cave, though, flies disappear. They do not follow you in.
The cave has been inhabited for millennia, until the day that a ball of lightning flew in and killed the entire clan that was living there. Their bones are still heaped up in one corner of the cave.

Josh have seen the cave in the 80ies, and he said that a narrow shelf above the ossuary held a number of human skulls. Skulls are gone today, as are all other more interesting parts and all the stone tools. What’s left are broken and heavily weathered bones that suggest they were lying here exposed for a very long time.

Not far from the main cave is a small arch which hosts its own critter.

About 2 foot tall, what or who she is must be left to the experts to debate. I like her exquisitely drawn toes.

27evening tower2
Cave is a part of a large sandstone city with innumerable laneways, bays and intriguing towers. Without a central point of reference, orientation can be a tricky business, though.

28Lavazza 2
Midday break on the way back. Besides wild cattle, both buffaloes and wild pigs are common, so all the water holes are muddy. Water is all right to cook with, even drink if you are running short. This must’ve been a God’s own country before the introduced stock ruined all the water courses.

29lily billabong
Lily covered billabong at the foot of the stone city. I saw fresh water crocodiles in it, usually a sign that larger salties are not around. Yet, you’d have to pay me a lot before I dipped a toe in this water.

Photos by Kris Larsen