Posted by: Julie Duell | March 2, 2008



Greetings all!

I’m sure you will agree that cause and effect have a great deal to do with how we evolve and who we become during our life journey.

Just to share a snippet of my own early experience, the photo below shows my painting of the humble shack of my childhood in the Sutherland shire south of Sydney (1940s/50s).  The corrugated iron roof was unlined so when it rained hard, the drumming on the roof was deafening.  I recall trying to sing over the top of it – like a kind of challenge to be heard & it gave me a feeling of exuberance – a feeling of triumph over adversity!  

After it had been raining for a while, a number of leaks would find their way through the nail holes in the 2nd hand iron, requiring saucepans to be placed under to catch the drips.  Sometimes Mum and I would make up a little song to the sound and rhythm of the drips …. plink, plonk, plink-plink, plonk!!


Here are my lovely Mum and Dad…

Our funny little car (a Triumph Herald ragtop) – the one in front was kept for spare parts since Dad was a Motor Mechanic…

and here I am, aged about 6 or 7.


Since my brother was very much older, I grew up as an only child  in the bush which meant countless hours of solitude absorbing the atmostphere, so it was a natural transition to express that in artwork created by the light of a kerosene lamp at the old round table in the evenings.    

We had lots of old fashioned books, plenty of art material and a radio when we could afford a battery.  Both the books and the ‘wireless’ encouraged imagination and creativity, since one had to imagine the ‘picture’ side of things!  I can see now  that in this overall environment, imagination and creativity were given full reign, giving birth to my lifelong love of art, music & the native bushland and I was lucky enough to have lessons in both singing and art in my childhood. 

I do remember at the time feeling quite deprived compared with other kids in their “palaces” with electric lights, indoor plumbing and ‘mod cons’  but I can now appreciate the positive legacy of this early upbringing, as hard as it was and like most kids, I guess I always wanted more!

Here’s one example of childhood envy…2 drawings I did when I was 9 years old after going to the Royal Easter Show that year in 1951. I’m sure I was given one showbag, a ride on the Ferris Wheel & I remember my mother making me a kewpie doll at home because they were too expensive to buy. I suppose I thought money grew on trees!  Anyway these were “wish” drawings of having “the lot” (sorry Mum!)

The strange dark thing is a monkey on a stick, which I always wanted!

and here I am all dressed up, actually going to the Easter Show that same year!

While we are looking at that era of 1951, lets have a look at a couple of pages of an old Nature Study schoolbook of mine then.  We used nibbed pens dipped into inkwells in 4th class and I think up to 3rd class it was pencil.  Do any of you remember that? These were in a small Government issue schoolbook labelled “Nature study”  and no doubt formed the beginnings of the “Sprite” books (see Post 21 for the first free E-book)…

I remember in Springwood when I was only 4 my mother showing me the wattle flowers up close and telling me they were the fairies’ powder puffs! Hmm I wonder what “disease” I had heard of if wattle is held near your nose?  Hayfever probably.  My Dad suffered from that every spring.

 This next drawing will bring back memories for some of you!  As a young teenager, Mum would leave me  at the Glaciarium Ice Skating rink in Sydney while she shopped or did some part time Millinery work (hats were very popular in those days for all!)  We couldn’t always afford to hire skates, but I just loved to watch, especially the figure skating, and must have drawn this on one of those days…

  By the time I became a teenager, our early bush shack was later replaced by this modest home (still without electricity for many a year) :


The next shot shows a glimpse of the creative corner inside, dubbed “The Happy Landing” by my mother, because this little add-on 2 metre square alcove was just wide enough to house a very old piano which doubled as an art easel!  The bird carving was my father’s effort. 


Many a wonderful hour was spent in the Happy Landing, Mum playing piano, me singing my heart out (everything from opera to pop) and  Dad whistling in the background. In between, one of us would have a go at painting or drawing using the closed piano as an art easel!

 The creative signal as far as music went was hearing Mum’s piano notes drifting down through the bush through the gumleaves waving in the sunlight.  An invitation to come and sing!

How has your childhood affected how you are now?   Has anything you thought of as negative at the time turned out to be beneficial after all?  How about sharing your beginnings with us – your “cause and effect”?

Cheers!  Julie.



Hi Julie,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding your journey through life, especially your art experiences, and also for an invitation to all to do likewise if they wish, to make some comment.

We already have had some productive discussions on such issues and we realise that all the arts can be a means of life-style enrichment. After all the greatest art of all is “the art of living”.

As you have already expressed our early environment does largely determine the person we have become and will be. Although we cannot change past experiences we certainly can and do change our understanding and attitude towards them. This in turn can help us to move away from resentments and self pity.

Do other people agree or disagree? Further comments could be of value to all as we strive for more understanding.

Cheers, Tony.  Mar 7, 1:44 AM

Response:  Thanks Tony for your contribution. Yes, the ‘art of living’ is what it is all about and however we enhance that is worthwhile!  After all much of life is not so much what happens to us, but how we react to it. Best wishes, Julie

Note:  To view or leave comments, you may need to click on “Continue reading” below.


  1. Hi Julie…I have just found your site, and am elated to find so much help!…I am a 75 year old great grandmother who has stepped into the art-creating world only sporadically during my life. Despite lack of confidence, and allowing other issues to take priority (family, work, etc.), I have always felt the urge to create, and enjoy the excitement when I do it…. I don’t know how folks like you get it ALL in your days!!! I am amazed at such production: your paintings, web site, time to teach, etc. etc.

    Now my (adult) writer granddaughter has followed her urge to write her first try at a children’s book, and wants me to illustrate it. You look like the expert at that, thus the prompting of my question ….At this point, creating the original illustration: What are best materials to use when planning to transfer the illustration to “finished” paper/medium for reprint! If using water based paint do you use canvas, watercolor paper, or what? What is you favorite medium for children’s book illustration?

    Your web site convinces me you are a super busy lady, so I really don’t expect you to have time to respond to all questions here ….just thought I should try! In any case, just know this is to thank you much for your eagerness in so freely sharing your talent and works.

    In appreciation, Nancy

    • Hello Nancy – Sorry for the delay and many thanks for your comments. Yes I guess I am always busy and love to have a project on the go!
      Re the materials for illustrating, I use beautiful transparent waterproof inks on Ivory card, which is very smooth and resistant to bleeding of the ink into the paper – therefore giving a cleaner line. You can use them like watercolours but they are permanent once dry, allowing layers of glaze to be used to increase luminosity. If you have a light table, I suggest you use a card thickness that is translucent enough to overlay on roughs so that you can do a “polished copy” with your guide underneath. The Ivory card I have also allows thin washes without buckling. I’m sorry I can’t tell you the thickness – I bought a whole ream of it years ago and there is no watermark. (I could post you a sample!) Re the inks, I use Art Spectrum which can be used with brushes or in refillable pens. If you use Rotring pens or similar, make sure you don’t let the ink dry in the nibs or they can clog up – wipe well and keep moist between uses. The advantage of these pens is that you can fill with whatever colour you wish for linework. If you just need black, waterproof Staedtler pigment liners come in various thicknesses from Newsagents and are lightfast. Whatever materials you use Nancy, these days as far as I know Printers use digital images so a good quality scanner or high resolution photograph is best. Photoshop Elements is a great programme for improving artwork once it is scanned into your computer. By submitting digital images to a publisher or printer on a CD or memory stick you can hold onto your original artwork and submit to more than one at a time. If you plan to submit to publishers, check with them first to see which format they prefer (eg. page multiples of 8, digital or not etc.) I hope this is helpful. Please don’t hesitate to ask anything further. Best wishes, Julie

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