Category Archives: books

drawing in a book – a work in progress

I am drawing in books again.

Those of you who have followed this blog may be aware of my 2016 exhibition “You Can’t Draw in Books” as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week.

Initially I had an exhibition as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week in 2016, showing 45 books which then travelled to another library and a bookshop. 

I am now selling the individual pages and books on my Etsy store . 

I have just begun another exciting special project as a birthday gift. (Louise, if you are reading this – stop now , and don’t spoil the surprise). I was asked by a good  friend to draw in 1909 recipe book that she had purchased. I have identified about 20 pages that have recipes which have attracted my attention for drawing potential. There are some very ‘of the time’ 









Below are six of my drawings on the recipes in watercolour pencil. The pages are a wonderful thickness and texture to draw on and I am have a wonderful time deciding which to draw on.

 I am working on another four pages and identified another six recipes that have potential.

I have about four weeks to finish and it is on track for completion. I love a project ! 


MRBW Day 9

Melbourne Rare Book “Week” actually goes for 11 days, culminating this weekend in the  ANZAAB Australian Antiquarian Book Fair (Melbourne Rare Book Fair), held in the University of Melbourne’s historic Wilson Hall.

I am flying to Manchester for the Urban Sketching Symposium tomorrow and will miss the two days of the Rare Book Fair.

Today I sketched at two events.


State Library Victoria

Des Cowley

22Jul2016 MRBW Day 9am

Despite there being no agreed definition of what an artist book is, it is generally defined as a book made by an artist and intended as a work of art. This session looked at a selection of books made by artists, drawing from State Library Victoria’s collection of over one thousand artists’ books


Law Library of Victoria

The Law Library of Victoria brought together eminent members of the legal community to share their passion for books. Held in the iconic Supreme Court Library, the session celebrated the importance of the written word and the beauty of the book in people’s lives.

 22Jul2016 MRBW Day 9pm

It seemed very fitting for my final sketching session documenting Melbourne Rare Book Week events was held in my workplace, the Supreme Court Library. I have sketched in the library in the past. But they are more detailed studied drawings of the books, shelves and ladders of this beautiful space. They are available as Greeting cards from my Esty online store (I am away until 17 August and will take orders after then) or at stockists around Melbourne

IMG_001622Oct14 shelves229Oct14 old Commercial law bookalissa duke library shelves




The past 9 days have been a wonderful experience for me, as a sketcher and book lover. I have met an amazing array of people who are passionate and generous in sharing their knowledge of their specialist area of books. Thanks to everyone who has discovered and followed my blog, some who have introduced themselves to me at events. A special thank you to Kay Craddock, Chris Browne and the people who worked so hard to produce this event. It was humbling and exciting to be involved.  See you all next year.

MRBW Day 4

A quiet Sunday, with only two Melbourne Rare Book Week events on today.


17Jul2016 MRBW Day Four am

John Arnold is an Associate Professor at Monash University lecturing in publishing and communications. He has been involved in the second-hand book trade as a dealer and collector for over forty years. In this talk he reminisced on bookshops past and present.  Lots of people in the room nodding their heads as he mentioned various people and businesses. This talk was held in beautiful room in the Old Treasury Building, so I decided to colour the room in this sketch.



14Jul2016 MRBW Day Four 4

Melbourne book collector, Professor Chris Browne, presented an entertaining illustrated talk about Penguin Books, focusing on their interest to book collectors, particularly looking at early Penguins from 1935 to 1970. He pointed out the important role of Penguin books during the Second World War and show how important innovations in book design were introduced by Penguin, He outlined the history of Penguin Books, both in the UK and Australia, illustrated the talk with examples from his personal collection of around 2000 Penguins.

MRBW Day 3


Melbourne Rare Book Week hosted six events today. Some were at the same times, so I had to make a choice about which ones to attend and sketch at. The decision was made easily, as one, A Walk on the Mean Streets, was going to have more sketching potential than the others.

The day began at the Rare Book Discovery Day at Melbourne Museum. It was an opportunity for people to bring along their books, maps and prints to this Antiques Roadshow-style event for discussion and informal appraisals from a panel of leading antiquarian booksellers. I arrived when they opened the doors and sat behind the appraisers.

14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three merged

I immediately realised that my ink pen was empty so I sketched in watercolour pencil. Instead of a quick sketch I stayed there for about an hour, drawing the appraisers first and then adding some people who had bought books along. I was pleased when a family arrived with a stack of books . I had a wonderful time watching, listening to the interesting conversations and sketching.

14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three am merged


After rushing home to refill my ink pen I went back into the city for A Walk on the Mean Streets. I knew in advance that the two presenters were dressing in period costume, which is why I wanted to attend this event. We had a perfect winters day – clear blue sky and sunshine.

15Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm1

This walk was hosted by Dr. Lucy Sussex, an expert on Australian detective fiction, accompanied by Professor Chris Browne. We walked for two hours, stopping at some of the sites of Melbourne featured in the books of Fergus Hume, the author of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab.


14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm214Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm4 14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm3





14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm5



14Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm614Jul2016 MRBW Day Three pm7











The walk finished at East Melbourne Library biscuits and coffee and with an interview with the ghost of Fergus Hume. We also viewed some early editions of the Mystery of Hansom cab and related titles and learned more about the publishing history.


exhibition preview

Today I held a special champagne preview for some close friends of my upcoming exhibition “You Can’t Draw in Books?” for Melbourne Rare Book Week.


from left to right. Leon, Alissa, Louise, ,Michaela, Adam

Today’s preview was at my apartment for some good friends who will not be in town while my exhibition is on. The books were displayed, grouped as they will be in the different areas in Melbourne City Library. The difference was that today, they were spread out over a table, mantle piece and my bed, instead of labelled in display cabinets.

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The exhibition is at Melbourne City Library, Flinders Lane from 14 – 24 July. I will be giving a talk with book collector, Chris Browne  on Monday 18 July at 6pm. We will explore aspects of drawing in books, from early manuscript illustrations and the presentation of pictures on the printed page, to my own informal drawing in books. Book here for the talk.








Above are a selection of the books. There are forty in total.

We are now at the stage of designing the flyer, and writing the content for the different areas of the display. In just over three weeks we will set up the exhibition. Today, it was great to receive some lovely comments from my friends and to get their feedback on some questions I had.  Thanks all for a lovely celebration and sharing my exciting art adventures.











Melbourne Rare Book Week

“Melbourne Rare Book Week – for the love of books” was launched on Monday night. The program of free events has been announced and bookings are open. It is on from 14 -25 July 2016.

I am absolutely thrilled and humbled to be involved with the event in two ways. Melbourne Rare Book Week (MRBW)  is a very prestigious event – attracting a wide range of local, Australian and global visitors.

Firstly, I have an exhibition, “You Can’t Draw in Books?” and an accompanying talk. I have over 40 books that I bought for a dollar or two, or were being discarded. I am illustrating on pages in reaction to the text on the page. One of my thoughts is that this drawing may make the viewer look deeper at the page and the book. And by doing this, giving the book a new life.

Hare Preservation Act

The drawing from my exhibition that was chosen to go in the MRBW promotional brochure (above) for the event  is drawn in a old law book. I have illustrated the Hare Preservation Act 1892 (UK) . Just read deeper and you will find out about regulating the hare breeding season.

The exhibition has an associated talk , with book collector Chris Browne, who will explore aspects of drawing in books, from early manuscript illustrations and the presentation of pictures on the printed page to some examples of formal and informal book illustrations in more modern times.

Here are some of the sketches in books I have already shared online. They are all still “works in progress “as I have a bit more to add to each before July.

Ross's Outlines of English History

Ross’s Outlines of English History

Undomestic Goddess

Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

All but one of the books are on open pages.

However the London A-Z Street Map is falling apart and is just asking to have many pages drawn on.
30Apr16 london busLondon A-Z

July may seem a long way away, but is rapidly coming closer. My time between now and then will be spent investigating signage, labels… and completing the drawings.

23may2016 MRBW

Secondly, I am involved as an urban sketcher. I was excited to be contacted by Chris Browne last year after Kay Craddock (the organiser of MRBW) had seen some of my sketches from various Melbourne Rare Book Week events last year.
Chris suggested the idea of me visually recording some of the events and activities in 2016 through drawing. I started by sketching the launch (above). Urban sketchers draw what they see, on location, in real time, as it happens, and share their drawings on line. There are 55 events over the week and I will be kept very busy! You will see more about this over coming weeks on my blog, facebook, Instagram and flickr.

And then before it ends, I jump on a plane and fly to Manchester for the Urban Sketchers Symposium !

drawing in books project

I am currently working on a project that involves illustrating in books (but only old cheap books!). Todays blog has a sketch about those books and some drawing in the books I found.

I have previously written about the concept of drawing in books.

16Apr15 booksale

The books were being sold so cheaply that they might as well have been given away free, At $5 a bag these filled my idea of cheap. Some books were old and some were newer (these are titles that you see at every secondhand bookshop)

16Apr15 books

Below are both “works in progress” in two books. The drawings are in watercolour pencil. I have discovered that in most cases I do not need to ‘prime’ the pages before I draw on them.

16Apr15 bookeggs

Undomestic Godess by Sophie Kinsella

Ross's Outline of English History

Ross’s Outline of English History

16Apr15 bookqueen

Ross’s Outlines of English History

Dromkeen Literary Festival

On Saturday I was fortunate to go to the Dromkeen Literary Festival at Riddells Creek, 45 minutes train ride from Melbourne.

It is a festival celebrating Australian Children’s Literature and Storytelling, where “authors and illustrators bring favourite stories to life”.

19Mar2016 Dromkeen HUSH

the Festival Opening of the Making of the HUSH Treasure Book “Created for the Hush Music Foundation, famous for its original music albums used in hospitals all around the world, this book is a treasure trove that will delight and entertain the whole family”

Read more about the wonderful HUSH book

Dromkeen Homestead has became a home for Australian children’s literature and in 2013 it was purchased by the Joiner family and reopened as a centre for Australian children’s literature. There is so much I could write about this wonderful place , but for today’s blog I will focus on my sketching activities at the Literary Festival. To read more about Dromkeen please visit their website.

The authors and illustrators and storytellers  of Australian children’s books talked about their books and their own literary/art journeys. many of the presentations were for children and were interactive I went to listen to a few specific illustrators whose style I like and admire – and to sketch.  I was there for five hours and enjoyed every moment of it.

19Mar2016 Dromkeen illustrators

Marc McBride “Dragons and airbrush art”. Adam Wallace “”Writing and Illustrating a book”

19Mar2016 Dromkeen Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson “illustrating our incredible world”

19Mar2016 Dromkeen Sue DeGennaro

Sue deGennaro “Illustrating a picture book”


19Mar2016 Dromkeen Mark Wilson audience nowords

the audience at Mark Wilson’s “Illustrating our incredible world”

At the moment I am focusing on sketching groups of people at events and specific people. If you know any of these illustrators (above), you will realise that these sketches do not look like them at all.  Many of the illustrators spoke to the children in the audience about practice and not giving up on your first try. This resonated with me !

19Mar2016 Dromkeen Storytelling

19Mar2016 Dromkeen childrens activites19Mar2016 Dromkeen face painting & balloons

It was a grey day, but there was no rain or wind and a healthy number of people came through the gate. I heard glowing praise all day from enthusiastic children and happy stall holders. There was face painting, storytelling, cartooning demonstrations, puppetry and book mural art. I was fortunate to have a small involvement in the set up on Friday and saw the dedication and immense amount of work of the organisers and volunteers to put this day together. A big congratulations to them all for keep alive and boosting the tradition of children’s literature in Australia.

Below is a sketch of the Country Fire Association(CFA) volunteers at the traditional fund raising sausage sizzle for lunch !

19Mar2016 Dromkeen sausage sizzle


My cards at State Library of Victoria

The last few weeks have involved some very exciting events for me and my art.
My greeting cards are now for sale at The State Library of Victoria at Readings Bookshop and the Law Institute of Victoria Bookshop.

photo 1a

my cards are all along the top row and the first three on the left on the second row

photo 1

The greeting cards at State Library of Victoria include my drawings of library books, library ladders, feathers and nests. I visited on Friday to see them  prominently displayed on the shelf and fitting in very nicely in their surroundings. I am slightly overwhelmed and in awe that my cards are being stocked at such a prestigious and historic institution. It is visited by thousands of tourists and locals as it is a  Melbourne landmark and cultural icon.  This is a Very Big Deal for me as this Is my first stockist (apart from  my local corner store).

6Feb2016 SLV

I drew this on the morning that I dropped my cards off at the Library. It is a magnificent 19th-century building .

There is particularly interesting and strong connection between the State Library of Victoria and the Supreme Court of Victoria Library (where I work and whose books and library ladders feature on my cards).

25Feb16 statue

Statue of Sir Redmond Barry ,outside of the State Library of Victoria

Sir Redmond Barry, KCMG, QC (1813 – 1880), was a colonial judge in Victoria, Australia. He is a leading figure in Melbourne’s history. Amongst many other things he established the Library of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1851, The current building, with its magnificent dome was completed in 1884 . In 1854 he established the Melbourne Public Library, now the State Library Victoria. It is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free public libraries in the world (and also has a dome).

In a second event my Library and book greeting cards are also going to be available for purchase at the Law Institute of Victoria bookshop. This is another area of great potential . There are 20 000 solicitors in Victoria and this is their member organisation and bookshop. I had a wonderful discussion with the manager and have many ideas for new drawing projects.

Of course, you can buy my greeting cards  from my online Etsy shop .

Library coffee cups

Today was my work Christmas party. It was held in the tearoom at work, everyone bringing a plate of food and taking the time to  relax. My contribution to the lunch (along with bread and juice) were these paper coffee cups that I had drawn on. They are  drawings of the Supreme Court of Victoria.  The library that we work in is under the dome. The other drawings are of books in the library. People could take a cup if they wanted to, and happily did.

cup and books

Above is a cup against the books.

Below are the different drawings I did.

Here are the BOOKS


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and here is the LIBRARY

















The cups were bought by my colleague Monica at the markets in a stack of 100 (thank you !) . I didn’t think I would use that many but I can see lots fun potential. I have drawn on them with my Lamy Safari Joy ink pen . I hope you enjoy.

If you love books and library you can purchase my watercolour pencil drawings of them on Greeting cards in my Etsy shop