Web Statistics Archives for 2013 | Kerry Thompson's Blog - Artist ~ aka Kerry Millard, cartoonist/author/illustrator

Top Secret Artwork Delivered

Under my illustrator/author/cartoonist nom de plume, Kerry Millard, I have been commissioned to illustrate a series of books by publishers Penguin (Australia).

On Thursday a few days ago I delivered the finished artwork for the first two books in the series of four! Very exciting - I had just finished applying a grey wash to the line drawings. It is always a great moment when the work can be spread out on a big table and revealed to the editors and publisher. Luckily they loved them, and having arrived at Penguin at 3pm, by 4pm the illustrations had sneaked into the overnight courier bag to Melbourne (it was already closed but was opened up to let them in) where the designer is having them scanned, and is placing them with the text. The two books go off to the printer before Christmas.

Even though I had set up a room in my house to do the work in, as per usual I ended up doing it on my dining room table and eating wherever else I could fit. Here is a photo of what my living/dining room looked like part way through book 1. Some of the pictures are of things happening underwater, and some are at night, so it was challenging to work out how to paint them with my little paintbrush without the paper getting so wet it buckled.

As soon as I’m allowed to tell you the titles and what the books are about I will, but at the moment it is still top secret!


Oh, and here's a little visitor I spotted in a birdhouse I bought at Salamance Markets in Hobart two Christmases ago!

2013_12_8 FrogInBirdhouseKerryThompson

It’s a charming wee frog!

The Critic, the Red Queen, and the Tweak

The Critic:
With my Sunday morning cup of tea I’ve just read John McDonald’s review of the Red Queen exhibition at MONA in Hobart, Tasmania.
The kettle is on the boil...
The Red Queen: The underlying impetus for the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) exhibition is the biological proposition put forward by biologist Leigh Van Valen in 1973 that constant change (evolution) is necessary for the very survival of a species - that due to the ongoing assault by predators or parasites, species don’t just reach a point of perfection where they can rest on their laurels (this is in a nutshell in a nutshell). The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Through The Looking Glass” at one point remarks that it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place.

I would add my current theory which is that creativity is a restlessness. Restlessness to unpick and reassemble ideas in new combinations is advantageous to survival because it leads to the discovery of more successful ways to deal with the world as it is and of responding to new circumstances which may arise. This isn’t to say that “it’s all good” because we are primitive animals at heart and ideas can still be used to enhance our brutality. However, I think that creativity in art is part of our societal sandpit to make a mess, see things differently, astonish ourselves with new discoveries.

The Tweak:
So … what about those artists who work in the same way over and over? Where do they fit in with my theory? Are they not creative? Only the artist her/himself will know what evolution may be occurring internally, but it makes me think that perhaps besides the explorers and inventors and thrill-seekers who can only tolerate a new challenge, for survival as a group we also need those who crave to perfect a craft or skill, to sit with an idea and get to know it intimately and share with the rest of us its nuance and potential.

I suspect we all harbour elements of both the desire for new challenge and the desire to repeat what is familiar and comfortable but we either work primarily in the way which is inherently stronger in us, or could it be, in the way which has become stronger because it is encouraged by our particular surroundings, which may mean the role that best suits our group as a whole in the long run?

Time for a fresh pot of tea.

By Blackbutt Creek

Recently a lovely couple asked me to make for them a large painting of a track through some gorgeous bush which they love, particularly where it crosses Blackbutt Creek. Commissioned work is exciting because I make a painting about the people who commission it. We got to know each other a bit, went for a walk together to share their experience of the place, and then I visited the bush again after rain. Gorgeous. Then onto a huge canvas "By Blackbutt Creek" emerged.

Tonight it went to its new home. The painting changes with different lighting, creating different moods and looking like different times of day. It looked very happy in its new setting and I will visit it again some day when it is in its final position.

By Blackbutt Creek_72x10

By Blackbutt Creek ~ Kerry Thompson
Acrylics on canvas - 153 x 101cm

Ben Quilty is genius

My exhibition “City ditty” is happily hanging at Gallery Mercure (226 Victoria Street Potts Point NSW 2011 Australia) and on April 14th there will be a drinks talk and tour from 4:30 - 5:15 pm, drinks from 4:00. We’ll have various smaller items available for sale with various paintings printed onto them (e.g. cards, tiles, postcards)… and I’ll be sharing what possessed the goldfish.


In another part of town, at the National Art School*, Ben Quilty’s exhibition After Afghanistan is hanging until 13 April then will begin a 2 year tour of the country.

I saw the first of two ABC Australian Story documentaries with Ben talking about his experiences as war artist, and watched him working on these canvases via my TV screen, but was unprepared for the genius and power of these works. They are big, and they are visceral in the application of paint, the silences of blank canvas, the bold and tender disconnected swipes of pigment which create an intensely moving and powerful response in the viewer, you just have to glance at the faces of those in the gallery, and at the same time are intensely exciting as works of art. We are seeing Ben’s soul in the passions of paint, as much as we are seeing the souls of his subjects which he and they have shared with complete candour. We are not seeing paintings OF subjects - we experience a melding with them.

There are no images to accompany this post because this collection of works needs to be experienced, in person.

*National Art School, Forbes St  Darlinghurst NSW 2010 Australia

City ditty do

On Saturday March 23rd we had a lovely opening for my current exhibition, City ditty, hanging at Gallery Mercure, (Level 2, Mercure Sydney Potts Point, 226 Victoria Street Potts Point NSW2011 Australia).

What a lovely group of people came along, thanks so much, and I loved that everyone was meeting and chatting with each other.

I have been working with photographer Geoff Jaeger on this project, and have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating. Great when two minds think alike!

One very different painting is
Blue city made with gold and silver paint (which looks white in the photo) on a blue background. Luckily we found the perfect spot for it to hang where the metallic paint catches the light from a window and almost glitters.

Blue city_KerryThompson_72x15

Cocktails tonight, and Giddy City ditty next week...

Tonight is the cocktail party opening of the Lindfield Art Festival, then next weekend my exhibition, City ditty, will open on Saturday afternoon at The Mercure Sydney Potts Point. Lots to get dressed up for! Not to mention our choir singing in (the foyer of) the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday March 19th! Glad rags everywhere!

I’ll pop the newsletter here so you can find all of the information. I’m looking forward to Gemma’s talk at 4:30 Sunday afternoon…look at the end of the newsletter to see what she’s done.

We'd love you to join us at the opening of "City ditty" on 23 March 5 - 7 pm at Gallery Mercure

Friday 15 March 2013

I hope that all is going well in your neck of the woods!

This update is to let you know about my upcoming exhibition of works in paint,

City ditty

which is presented by Gallery Mercure in Sydney Australia
from 23 March to 24 April 2013.

City ditty - Kerry Thompson 10cm
City ditty   Kerry Thompson ~ acrylics on canvas 45x35cm framed

We'd love you to bring your friends and join us for opening drinks
Saturday 23 March
5 - 7 pm

@ Gallery Mercure

Open 10am - 6pm 7 days
Level 2, The Mercure Sydney Potts Point ~ 226 Victoria Street, Potts Point NSW 2011
1 minute walk from Kings Cross Station

Contact Geoff Jaeger at Gallery Mercure 0404 292 390

Shoalhaven shores Kerry Thompson 72 x 20
Shoalhaven shores, "Bundanon"   Kerry Thompson ~ acrylics on paper 61x78cm framed

Also coming up is the

Lindfield Art Show

Friday 15 March - Sunday 17 March 2013.

You'll spot three of my paintings in the show along with a wonderful collection of works by a wonderful collection of artists. I know, because I saw what was being hung when I dropped mine off!

Opening hours:
Friday 15 March 2013 – cocktail opening - tickets required
Saturday 16 March 2013 – 9.30am to 4.30pm
Sunday   17 March 2013 – 9:00am to 2:00pm

Holy Family Catholic Primary School Hall, 2 - 4 Highfields Rd, Lindfield NSW 2070 Australia.

Balingup hills sgnd smll
Balingup hills   Kerry Thompson ~ acrylics on paper  50x62cm framed

"Balingup" hills will be auctioned at the Friday night cocktail party, proceeds going to St Judes' College in Tanzania.

It's quite a story ...

"Holy Family has proudly supported St Jude’s College in Tanzania for several years, sponsoring a teacher and two students. St Jude’s school provides a chance for the brightest and poorest children to escape the trap of inadequate education, illiteracy and poverty. Gemma Sisia, a girl from country NSW, established the school in 2002, which has grown from three students to more than 1500."

I think Gemma will be giving a talk at the show on Sunday. I'll be finding out on Friday evening what time so let me know if you'd like to know too!


Thank you for letting me share paintings and adventures with you.
Cheers for now,


What about that Francis Bacon

On Saturday February 16th I finally got to the Francis Bacon (post 2nd world war British Artist) exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Francis Bacon's work is described as confronting, eliciting a visceral reaction, representing isolation and man's brutality to man. It wasn't an exhibition I was sure I was curious enough to see. Then I caught a documentary where he was being interviewed and was struck by his almost naive and vulnerable demeanour, sometimes like a rabbit caught in the headlights, his fascination with images, his hanging out at the pub talking, and his comment about being an optimist about nothing. Which is not the same as not being an optimist about anything. His studio was a pile of chaos. He appeared haunted, but behaved much like a precocious child trying to look grown up. It was interesting to see how the relative status of Bacon and the interviewer reversed as the interview progressed; I wondered if the interviewer was unconsciously responding to the child.

I wonder if Bacon's images are confronting because we are viewing a differently-organised collection of recognisable fragments of the human body, and carcasses, for example, which we would normally only see as injury, accident, dismembering. It surprised me that rather than shocking, the paintings were exciting and set me to thinking.

The curation of this exhibition was brilliant - particularly the vivid colour scheme of the walls.

Bacon's works are quite different in life than reproduced as small photographs. I wasn't expecting to find them so stunning.

Francis Bacon’s optimism is evident, I think, in the beautiful colours he used even in the most confronting works, when you get up close and look at the detail.


His assembly of just-on-the-edge-of-comprehensible fragments to make up a face or human form made me think immediately of the experience of people who have been blind from birth, then through medical intervention suddenly gain sight. They are not at first able to see distinct forms because their brain hasn’t yet learned how to take in all of the visual information and organise it into a chair, a floor, a face etc.. I love how Bacon’s conglomerations convey perfectly the sense of the person or interaction between figures using fragments that we recognise at almost a primitive level.


I wondered if the chaos of Bacon’s studio helped him feel less restrained with his painting practice (throwing paint at a canvas, for example) when he wanted to be. It mirrors the chaos and unexpected juxtapositions of imagery in his works. I wonder if it stimulated and inspired some of his assemblages.


Bacon’s tryptich of John Dyer after his suicide was powerful because the flesh is so alive, the figure sitting as if alive, but the closed and sunken eyes reflect the fact that Dyer is dead. It takes me immediately to a sudden death in the family when I was a child - I remember feeling the almost surreal sense that I was still in the same day when the person had been alive, but completely and irreversibly separated. To me Bacon has captured the desperation of grief, of willing life back into the almost as good as still alive body.


I'm glad I went.

Lots of doings and White Rabbit Gallery

There are lots of things on the boil - if you visit the newsletter page you'll see a few!

I recently visited the closing days of an exhibition of
The White Rabbit Gallery's private collection of works by contemporary Chinese artists, here in Sydney. The exhibition, Double Take, was all about things that aren't what they appear to be.

I loved it; such invention, such a brilliant concept to give us stimulation to truly
see familiar things, only after learning to mistrust our senses. So many layers. For example ...

A chocolate shop! Yum, even the smell of chocolate wafting through the room and Valentine's Day hearts. Then you realise that the chocolates are made in the shape of military machinery - tanks, guns, soldiers - complete antithesis to chocolate and chocolate shops and all of their associations, and the gulf between them packs a punch. Then you discover that the objects are actually made of plastic and the chocolate scent which comes from behind the counter is deliberately driving you to a wrong assumption about what you are seeing. But plastic soldiers are toys. We are familiar with them and give them happily to our kids, oblivious to and not even connecting them with what a soldier actually is and does and suffers and represents. But let us believe that they are made out of chocolate and the contrast opens our eyes.

This is reminiscent of one of the most disturbing pieces I’ve experienced,
Remains of a suicide bomber by Diane Worland, Melbourne, Australia at MONA in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Created from chocolate. The impact of such juxtapositions is powerful.

Tu Wei-Chengs Happy Valentines Day
Tu Wei-Cheng's Happy Valentine's Day, 2011
Photo by Kerry Thompson, reproduced courtesy of the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney

A true delight was the dust caught in a spotlight's beam - which turns out to be myriad tiny objects from daily life all recreated in miniature by the artist, Cong Lingqi, and suspended from the ceiling ingeniously in such a way that their shadows on the wall almost never overlap. The further the object is from the wall, the more its shadow is out of focus giving the shadows a three dimensional flavour.

Dust by Cong Lingqi
Dust by Cong Lingqi Photo by Kerry Thompson, reproduced courtesy of the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney

This exhibition has finished, but I am looking forward to the next.

Tips: Starting a Pop-up Gallery

I've put some ideas on the Hints and tips page that could be useful if you have ever thought of using an unoccupied shop or other space to set up a temporary pop-up gallery. They are based on my Little Firefly Pop-up Gallery experiences.

I'd highly recommend the adventure - it is wonderful to have your work on display where people can view it directly, and it is wonderful to be on site and to be able to chat with folk.

I have my antennae out for the next space - I think it's great to explore different locations...

Kerry's Mobile Marble Sorter-Outer


Have I told you about Kerry’s Modern Shorter-Stouter Mobile Marble Sorter-Outer?
Originally built many years ago to take part in an exhibition at
Books Illustrated in Melbourne, it was running hot at my recent Little Firefly pop-up gallery.

The idea was for illustrators (I illustrate and write as “Kerry Millard”) to send something that represented who you are, how you tick, but it absolutely couldn’t be an illustration. It could be a video of you tap-dancing, a tea cosy you’d knitted, a recording of you singing a song … So I thought, hmmm, what would represent “me” and what goes on inside my brain? I know! A marble sorter-outer!

You may notice such components as - my offspring’s toothbrush, the legs from the TV (from the days when TVs had legs - or did before they got used for marble sorter-outers), the handle grip from a bicycle, … and it works. Saves hours. Just insert marbles where indicated one at a time and, hey presto, sorted!! … But how? Weight? Colour? Well, maybe you’ll come to my next pop-up gallery to figure it out for yourself!

Oh, and “Mobile” is in its name because there’s a handle on top. I’m not sure how old it will have to be before I have to change the “Modern” bit…

The Next Big Thing author blog

“The Next Big Thing”

Australian authors are tagging each other to write about the big project on their minds at the moment - and I’ve been tagged by the lovely
Wendy Orr. I couldn’t find anybody who was ready to be tagged this week, so instead I’d like to send you off to visit the website of Ursula Dubosarsky. I also adore the work of Jeannie Baker.

But today, I’m telling you about my next big project, and that is :

I’m turning my very first book that I ever wrote,
Gordon’s Biscuit, into an eBook!

Original cover illustration for
Gordon’s Biscuit - first published in 1996 by Angus & Robertson

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The working title is, Gordon’s Biscuit.

Gordons Biscuit cover
Cover of Penguin edition, published in 2006

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was sitting beside the fire trying to think of an idea for a story. I love dogs and had a funny scruffy little one at the time called Meg who had wisps of fur on the tips of her ears, and whose shaggy coat used to express how she was feeling. I also had small children and I loved their relationship with Meg.
The first idea was that Ellie (who became “Ella”) and Sam, the two main characters, would be trying to do something for their big shaggy dog, Gordon, and the idea of making a biscuit for him came quickly to mind because dogs and kids all like food! I stayed with that idea, even though it evolved a lot.

The first draft was a series of drawings scribbled in turquoise ink on one big sheet of paper.

The first draft was made in turquoise ink on an A3 piece of paper - here are bits of it - you can see how the ink has gone dark in places.

The idea for the eBook came from hearing from people that they loved the book, but it has been out of print for awhile, so I want to bring it to life again myself without going through a publisher, and to learn how to make eBooks so I can start making some more!

3) What genre does your book fall under?

I suppose the genre is picture book for younger readers. Mind you, I know kids who were still enjoying the original book as they got older and older - I have put lots and lots of little extra bits in the drawings so every time you read it you may discover something else, and little stories that are happening behind the story that I’ve told in the words.


I wanted to create a book that little people and big people could read together. Now I want to create a new book which will be available on the new technologies that are in people’s lives, as well as people being able to order one if they prefer a paper copy.

I’m excited to do an eBook because it will allow me to add bits and pieces and grow
Gordon’s Biscuit into a new kind of book - the original book could only have 32 pages because of the way books are manufactured, but this one can have a few more if I like! And I like!!!

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmmm… I don’t actually have any idea … but I think it would be fun watching people and dogs and a duck and ducklings try out for the parts! In fact, I was once at a school giving a talk, and one classroom was putting on “Gordon’s Biscuit” as a play! It was great!!!!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One shaggy dog who loves biscuits and the park, two kids who love the shaggy dog, lots and lots of biscuits, and a whole neighbourhood who come to the rescue when a new man at the park puts up a sign saying, NO DOGS.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

In the past I have worked with publishers, but this time I will self-publish for the first time. I’m very excited about this because once I learn how to do it, I’ll be able to write and illustrate lots more stories of my own. The trick is that when you make a book through a publisher, you get a talented editor who helps you turn a lump of clay into a book; I don’t want to end up just publishing lots of lumps of clay!

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft of the original book, scribbling little drawings in turquoise ink on an A3 sheet of paper, took a few hours to make while I was sitting by the fire one winter Sunday afternoon.
Making all of the necessary tweakings and fixings and developing of the story until a final manuscript was ready took two years.
First typed manuscript of Gordon’s Biscuit - this is the whole story - and was typed on a real typewriter, the one that my family gave me so they could actually read my letters to them! There were LOTS of versions after this one and the story changed a great deal.

I haven’t yet made the first eManuscript so I don’t know yet how long that will take. Most of the time will be taken in learning how to do this, but I love learning so it should be fun. I have the original scanned images from the original book, but don’t have a computer program that can read them! Oops… Luckily I still have all of the original artwork, some of which has been seen by lots and lots and lots of kids from when I have visited schools to talk about being an author and an illustrator. The images on this page are scans of the original artwork done on my little machine. It’s a bit tricky because the pages are a LOT bigger than the scanner! In the book, the background colour will be crisp white rather than the funny yellowish colour here.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’d like to think that it has a bit of the feel of a Bob Graham book in that he gives us warm relationships - and visual detail and little stories happening beside the one in the words.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My editor at Angus and Robertson, Cathie Tasker, with whom I had illustrated a few books including Wendy Orr’s Ark in The Park, asked me if I’d like to write my own book. Yes!, I said!

So that was the inspiration to create the original book. The inspiration for the eBook and print-on-demand version has come from all of the people over the past few years who have said they remember the book from their or their children’s childhood, that it was their favourite book, that they remember reading it over and over, and want more copies, and want to share it with more children. That is heartwarming.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

If people haven’t seen the story, I can assure them that they will discover a fantastical park and a biscuit shop like no other! For people who know the book, I am excited that I’ll be able to add a few new pages, including letting readers in on a lot of the other stories and ideas I’ve hidden in the illustrations. It will give everybody even more adventures to share when they read it together.

Once I’ve learned what this new technology can do, who know what else might happen?!

Stay tuned...

Catchup blog

Goodness gracious, I've been away from the blog for ages! First I was busy with my pop-up Little Firefly Gallery, then I was busy packing it up, and then doing all of the jobs I had put aside, then having a bit of a break reading a stack of books, then getting back into work and keeping cool.

Image 7
(My Little Firefly Gallery at West Lindfield during December 2012) Photo Christoph Mueller

In the meantime, lots of interesting stuff has been happening...

trailer has just been released for a new movie, Return to Nim's Island which will be released in Australia on April 4th 2013. It's a sequel to the feature film, Nim's Island starring Jodie Foster, based on the book by Wendy Orr, which I illustrated (as 'Kerry Millard'). I am in the original movie for 1 1/2 seconds - it was exciting being on the set and watching everybody at work! I was hugged by Jodie Foster and kissed by a sea lion.
Selkie kissing Kerry Web Unfortunately I didn't get a call to take part in this new movie; I guess Hollywood lost my number ...

The two original Nim books, Nim's Island and Nim at sea will soon be released in a new single volume, called The Nim Stories.

Nims Island movie cover 2
Nim at Sea p 120 Kerry Millard 72 x 15
Kerry Millard Illustration from Nim at Sea

In the meantime, I'm exploring a new project which I'll write about on Wednesday - there's a particular reason why it will be on that particular day, heh heh.

An odd little bit of food for thought: I have been watering my garden for the first time since the drought. Something unusual began to grow outside my kitchen door - I let it grow and watered it and watched it - it began to look like a sunflower plant. Yay! I LOVE sunflowers! And yes, eventually, slowly, when the plant was as tall as I am, a big sunflower head began to develop, then one day it began to open, the next day it was open a bit more, then the next day, it was gone! Completely. The plant was still standing but the flower head had been nipped off perfectly cleanly. Not a trace left behind. I suspect a cockatoo. So ... now there's a stalk as tall as I am with leaves, and no flower, and I was thinking, what good are you if you are a sunflower plant without a flower? Just a stalk and leaves. Then I thought, how mean to dismiss the plant just because it has no bloom - makes you wonder what makes us valuable. Or, what we think makes us valuable. Where does our value really lie? The stem and leaves did all the work to get the bloom up there, maybe they deserve the credit! Of course, now that it has become a philosophical question, I can't possibly pull it out...

Sunflowers blue - Kerry Thompson Web
Sunflowers blue Kerry Thompson

I’m growing beans up a bit of lattice fence. A bowerbird has been sitting on the top of the fence and eating my beans. I don't mind - I just think of it as growing bowerbirds.

Bower birds at billabong_KerryThompson sigMillard 10cm
Bowerbirds at the billabong Kerry Thompson

And there's a frog living in my watering can.

Happy New Year!