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Office rumours

July 13, 2012

Materials used: Black Uni-Ball pens in fine and micro. Coloured in Photoshop CS4.

I used to work at a place where it was rumoured that rats would roam the office at night. My friend warned me not to leave out food, as there was “vermin” about. “What do you mean by vermin?” I whispered. “Rats,” he responded. “Not small, cute little grey mice?!” I asked, somewhat desperately. So, that explained all of those weird little boxes with holes in them, scattered around the floor! They were rat traps, not art installations!

Naturally, this meant that I did not use my mug for a number of months. It just sat there on my desk, all nice and clean, for weeks on end. Often, I would long for a cup of tea or coffee that wouldn’t cost me $4.80 plus a skeezy glance from the barista. But every time I thought of making a cup of tea or coffee, I imagined that dozens, nay, hundreds of tiny little rats paws (hands?) had touched my cup after I had gone home for the night. I even imagined that a rat party or rat rave occurred on a nightly basis, with my mug as the centrepiece of the party.

One day, I really needed that cup of tea, and I just had to get over the whole thing. We didn’t have a sink in our office, so I just rinsed the mug with hot water, and…everything turned out fine. I have obviously survived to tell the tale!

Have you ever had an experience like that, where your imagination runs wild and stops you from doing normal things? Or, have you lived with some vermin friends before? The whole time that I worked at that place, I never did see a rat, or any other type of vermin. Perhaps it was just a rumour, and perhaps those boxes with the holes in them really did have another purpose.

I have actually had this drawing in my sketchbook for a few months now, but I didn’t get around to colouring it in Photoshop. I had this misconception that it would take me a few hours, when in fact, it only took a few minutes! This is probably the most ambitious comic that I have attempted, as it has multiple panels and looks finished! I am trying to make my comics look a little more finessed and less messy.

I thought I’d squeeze in another comic, in case I don’t update for another three months! I’m down to my last few days of school holidays, and I have a feeling that I may not be able to draw or post many comics during the school term. So, here’s a longer comic to keep you going until then! I actually have lots of ideas, but I rarely have the time to bring the ideas to life.

Wishing you a rat-free week!

Carla xo


Go the Swans!

July 12, 2012

Materials used: Black Uni-Ball pens in fine and micro, Koh-I-Noor Hardthmuth watercolours, black Art Spectrum ink.

Hello! Well, I might as well admit this to you, as well as to myself…this blog won’t be updated as much as I’d like. Obviously, you may be thinking; obviously, as you didn’t update for almost three months, you hippie! I’m sorry for my absence, my friends! It seems that I am always longing for time to work on my drawings and comics, but the time always seems to escape me. I have been blessed to get teaching work this year, so I am currently content with motivating my wonderful students to reach their creative potentials.

Okay, enough of that! Let me tell you about this little drawing. I have recently become a supporter of the Sydney Swans, the Australian Football League (AFL) team. You may already know that unfortunately, I am already a supporter of the Sydney Roosters, the National Rugby League (NRL) team; a union I have been forced into by my Roosters-obsessed husband. I am your typical artistic, indie, uncoordinated nerd girl; it is obscene that I should follow even one team! I admit that I only have room in my brain for understanding the rules of one type of football code; that space is reserved for the Sydney Roosters. I must be content currently to just gaze at the Swans and hope that some of the rules sink into my brain via osmosis. Geoff did try to explain things to me, but I still don’t really get it.

So, how did I end up at a Swans game? One of my good, fellow arty friends mentioned that she liked to watch the Swans. What? Well, if my sculpture-loving, art director friend liked the Swans, there must be something to it, right? I went along to a game, and I was surprised to see that many of the people in the crowd looked just like…me! That is to say, the stadium was packed full of young hipsters! Yes, I am a hipster, and I am not ashamed to say so! There were Ray-Ban Wayfarer glasses, striped t-shirts, ombre hair, Converse Chuck Taylors, A-line skirts with tights, little blazers, interesting hats, guys with beards and Boardwalk Empire-style haircuts…the whole hipster deal, and I was loving it.

I did eventually become bored while watching the game, so I started to do a drawing of all of the hipsters who were at the game. I meant to draw a crowd of people, but only ended up drawing myself and my husband, because I was lazy.

I went back for my second Swans game last Saturday, and I am pleased to say that I watched the entire game…whilst chatting non-stop with my friend. I did buy a beanie, though! Go the Swans!

Toothbrush myths

April 23, 2012

I met a masseuse recently, who asked me original questions like, “Do you enjoy getting massages?” When I replied, “No, being neurotic and anxious is kind of my thing, so no, I don’t like massages because I don’t like being relaxed,” the masseuse thought that I was joking, but in fact, it was the truth! The truth can also be funny, though, so I guess he was sort of right. Many of my illustrations and comics stem from my many neuroses, so if I wasn’t neurotic, then what would I draw?

I drew the above illustration (or one panel comic) one morning, after accidentally using my husband’s toothbrush when he was in the midst of a very snotty cold. I drew the illustration on the train that very morning, because I was getting so stressed about catching his germs. Often, I find that drawing helps to calm me down when I am worried about something. The funny thing was that I didn’t end up getting sick in the end! At least I got a drawing out of the whole experience!

This drawing was kicking around in my sketchbook for a few months. I kept meaning to colour it in Photoshop, but it took me ages to actually do it. I find that I am more motivated to colour my illustrations when I am using watercolour paints or some other hand-generated medium. On the other hand, when I finally get an illustration into Photoshop, I find that I am more creative in my colour choices and patterns. Best of both worlds, as Miley Cyrus/Hanna Montana says!

You might notice that I have just changed the masthead for this blog! I kind of hated my old masthead, but never had time to change it. It was fun illustrating my own masthead! Although, I got kind of nervous about it, and after several minutes of drawing, rubbing out, drawing, rubbing out, etc, I found myself thinking, “I have two degrees in drawing-related subjects…why can’t I draw a cactus?” There’s nothing like nerves to destroy a girl’s drawing mojo!

I hope you have an inspiring week, whether you are inspired by ailments, cacti or all of the above and more!

Carla xo

153 fish

April 8, 2012

It’s Easter Sunday today, and at church, Geoff and I heard a sermon on the book of John, chapter 21. In that chapter, Jesus helps his fishermen friends (aka his disciples) to catch a large number of fish. The exact number of fish is specified: 153. I love the exactitude of that number. To me, it reminds me of a God who knows the number of hairs on our heads, and the number of days in our lives. That chapter of the Bible presents us with a resurrected Christ who cooks his friends a delicious breakfast on the beach, and performs a miracle. Of course, there are deeper messages within that chapter, and I’m not the best person to unpack it for you. I just have a little drawing here to illustrate the miraculous catch of fish.

I did this illustration last year, and you might have seen it before if you read my old blog, Chasing Cakes. I don’t usually illustrate the Bible, although my Christian faith does have a strong influence over the subject matter of my drawings. I feel blessed that God has given me an enduring interest in drawing and art, so I try to use the small skills that I have to glorify Him, whether it is through the use of colour, form and humour, or in more explicitly Christian illustrations such as this one.

One of my favourite artworks addressing the resurrection of Christ is Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas (oil on canvas, 1602-03). Caravaggio has attempted to capture the emotion, confusion and shock that Thomas would have experienced when encountering a resurrected Jesus, which is explained in John 20. I love the expression on Thomas’ face, and I love how Caravaggio doesn’t shy away from showing the wound in Jesus’ side. As in many of his artworks, Caravaggio has used explicit realism to bring a Bible story to vivid, grotesque life.

There are illustrations for all occasions. I have some more illustrations and comics coming up about all sorts of things (though unfortunately, none of them feature Caravaggio’s beautiful, dramatic realism or chiaroscuro), so do stay tuned!

Carla x

A day at the races

April 7, 2012

I went to the races last Saturday with my husband and our friends. It was my first time at the races. It was a fun day – more fun than I expected! It was nice to see so many people dressed up, and it was also a beautiful, sunny, classically Sydney day. But of course, the thing that can really make or break your day at the races is money. Geoff and I managed to break even, which meant that we had a good day at the races! If we lost money, I would feel devastated and stupid. But as we broke even, we left feeling quite cheerful and slightly smug.

The first bet that I made was on a horse named Satin Shoes. I put a bet on it because it had such a cute name. I am guessing that is akin to buying a car based on its colour. The bookie I used didn’t tell me that I could bet each way, i.e. bet that the horse would win and also that it would get either first, second or third place. Serves me right for not using the Robbie Waterhouse bookie. I do live in Sydney after all, and you can’t live in Sydney without gleaning some sort of racing knowledge over the years – and so I should have known that placing a bet with a bookie who worked for Sydney’s racing dynasty would have been more helpful and less dodgy. Satin Shoes came second, and because I didn’t bet each way, I got a big fat zero from it. Oh well – it was fun and exciting watching the race, and cheering for Satin Shoes!

This is a little illustration that I did in my sketchbook. I am still the sort of girl who keeps tickets and receipts, because they remind me of good times. I’m trying to glue them into my sketchbooks now, so that they’re not scattered all over my desk like the refuse of some sort of crazy, sentimental hoarder. You can see my receipt from the bet that I placed on Satin Shoes, as well as the ticket to get into the races. I drew a picture of me at the races – I was wearing a bright orange cocktail dress and a gold sequined headband. I am smiling a tiny bit in the drawing, because I was winning!

I have a few other comics on the way, and I am keen to share them with you soon! I am colouring them at the moment. Drawing comics can be quite time-consuming – what with all of the sketching, inking and colouring – but I find it to be rewarding in the end. Hopefully you will like them!

I hope you are having a great weekend!

Carla xo

Cakes again

March 26, 2012

Remember when I had a blog called Chasing Cakes, but it wasn’t really about cakes? Well, now I have a blog called Cactus, Goldfish & Squid which isn’t about any of those things at all, and I am now posting about cakes! The irony! Just ask Alanis! I am telling you to ask Alanis because I think that it’s ironic, but you know, one can never be completely sure about matters of irony, conceit and other complicated literary matters.

I did this quick little sketch of cakes this weekend. I’m teaching my students how to use chalk pastels, so I thought I should check to see if I still knew how to use them. It turns out that I do! The complex thing about using chalk pastels is that you have to do all of your colour mixing on the page. For example, if you were painting and you wanted to make a light blue shade, you would mix up white and blue paint together on a palette, and then you would apply it to the paper or canvas. In contrast, when you draw with pastels, if you want to create a light blue, you need to shade the paper with blue pastel, then shade on top of it with white, and then maybe blend them together with your finger or a blending tool. You need to have a pretty good understanding of colour to use chalk pastels. I love the layering involved with chalk pastels. It’s fun! You can also create a fairly painterly effect very quickly.

Well, that’s enough nerdy art teacher talk for now! This was a fun drawing to do, as I love cakes. I used a photo from a magazine as a reference. If you know your Australian chefs/food stylists pretty well, you can probably guess who is behind this “recipe”. I say “recipe” because you don’t really cook to make those little cakes – the “recipe” says to buy cakes from the grocery store, cut them out with cookie cutters and then assemble them! That’s cheating!

Probably the king of cake paintings is Will Cotton. I love his work. You might be familiar with him, as his painting is featured on the cover of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album. Just a tip, don’t click on that Will Cotton link if you’re at work – some of his paintings are very “arty”, if you catch my drift!

I hope you have a delicious week!

Carla x

Alive and kicking

March 12, 2012


Hello everyone! I have missed you! It seems I have taken an accidental blogging break. Well, what happened? I was super blessed to get a Visual Arts teaching role for this year. That in itself is so wonderful to me. I hate being bored! I have been teaching some amazing teenagers and just generally finding my feet in this new job. Amongst all that, I neglected this poor little bloggy. I always miss blogging when I am away from it, as I miss having an alternate voice and I miss the creative outlet.

I have actually done a few drawings lately, but have not had a chance to scan them in and share them with you! So this little sketch is just something to keep this little blog alive (and hopefully amuse you!) for the time being!

You definitely know that you are alive and kicking when you are making mistakes. Mistakes are things that keep us human and interesting. Usually I embrace mistakes, particularly those of the artistic kind. But let’s not deny the fact that making a mistake can be hugely frustrating. Particularly if you an overachiever like me! I very rarely make mistakes – I am definitely an “attention to details” type of girl – so when mistakes happen, I am not happy!

I have quite a few drawings coming up in my Overachievers series. This wasn’t supposed to be the first one. But, as the theme of this illustration suggests, perhaps mistakes do have happy endings. I did get an illustration out of my mistake, after all! I used a felt-tip pen and a pink Post-It note for this one. Another mistake that I made today was not putting my sketchbook in my bag this morning!

Wishing you a mistake-free week ahead! More drawings to come!

Carla xo

You Oughta Know

January 7, 2012



I was in the mood to listen to Alanis Morissette the other day, which is quite rare for me. During the nineties, Alanis’ music was played so often on the radio, and almost everyone owned and listened to her album Jagged Little Pill, so that by the time the noughties rolled by, I was definitely never going to listen to Alanis again. However, I was angry about something the other day, and few songs can capture a woman’s anger like Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. Just the sound of her voice is angry! The other day, I wasn’t relating to the words in Alanis’ song, but rather, her overall attitude and delivery.

I was one of the few people who didn’t own her album – my sister was the one who owned all the cool albums, including Jagged Little Pill – so a few days ago, I found myself watching Alanis’ music video for You Oughta Know on YouTube. I had never seen the music video before (remember, there was no YouTube back then!), and I was struck by all of the desert colours in the video. The cobalt blue, sand yellow and orange colours further expressed Alanis’ burning rage. Listening to Alanis again and seeing her music video put me into a very “Alanis” sort of mood. What is an Alanis Mood, you may ask? Well, I would say that an Alanis Mood (and, specifically, a 1990’s Alanis Mood) is angry, powerful, empowered and creative. And I think those are great things for a woman to feel sometimes, so all power to you, Alanis!

This digital illustration is my little homage to Alanis and her song, You Oughta Know. I created it using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. As You Oughta Know is a pretty wordy song with unforgettable lyrics*, I thought that a typographical treatment would be a suitable way to celebrate the song. I used Helvetica Neue in bold here. The image within the text was a screenshot taken from the music video for You Oughta Know.

Do you have a song that you listen to when you’re angry? I usually listen to The Donnas when I’m mad. Specifically, I listen to their album Bitchin’. But sometimes, a visit to the nineties is just what the doctor ordered!

* I always loved how Alanis sang, “And every time you speak her name, does she know how you told me you’d hold me ’til you die…well, you’re still alive”. Angry and logical!

Happy anniversary

January 5, 2012

I would like to dedicate this little illustration to my husband. It’s our wedding anniversary today. This illustration only captures one small (and silly) aspect of the gratitude that I feel towards him. Over the years, I have done lots of drawings about us, and of us, but I don’t think that I could ever truly capture the complexity and complete colour spectrum of our relationship. This illustration is probably the only thing that I can give to my husband on this anniversary, as I have had a stomach bug ever since the beginning of this year, and I haven’t been feeling well enough to buy a present or cook a nice meal. Luckily, my man isn’t particularly materialistic. In sickness and in health, right? Happy anniversary, babe!


January 4, 2012

Hello, hello! Happy new year! I hope you had an amazing new year’s eve, to celebrate the end of 2011 and the beginning of this exciting new year. I was lucky enough to spend new year’s eve on the roof of a city building, and I had an amazing view of the Sydney fireworks. It is always a treat to see so many sparkling colours in the sky.

The above illustration is entitled Blobs on Holiday, and it is a collage with some paint and white pen over the top. If you used to read my old blog, then you may have already seen it. Hopefully it is a happy reunion for you, ha ha! The reasons why I am posting this illustration are 1) I like it (it’s okay to like your own work, right?) and 2) It shows the beginning of a new theme in my illustration work.

And what is that theme, you may ask? The theme is blobs. That’s right, blobs! For some strange reason, I have begun to create illustrations of myself and my husband, in which I portray us as blobs. I don’t know why this is. If you have met us in person, you could hopefully testify that neither of us are particularly blob-shaped. Perhaps my blob illustrations are a change from my previous work, in which I would draw highly stylised human figures. I guess that I  tend to find it easier to express thoughts, ideas and feelings through blobs rather than human or animal figures, as the blobs are completely imaginary, therefore making some situations more bearable or comical than if portrayed by a “real” thing.  Whatever the case, this Blobs on Holiday illustration was the first appearance of the blobs. The blobs have continued to pervade my sketchbooks, as you will see in upcoming posts!