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  • Debra Palmen

We're trapped, but we'll always have Chocolate

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Lead illustration for the Chocolate chapter.

Here we are, still languishing on the Sunshine Coast. I miss London and Paris!

But if you have to be trapped somewhere, this is a pretty fabulous place to be trapped.

Life here is pretty well the same as it was pre-Covid. Not counting that we can’t go overseas to go shopping, of course. But we still meet friends for breakfast a few times a week. We still take a stand - in a fabulous spot that’s the last stop before the beach - at Peregian Beach Market. We get sand between our toes once a fortnight, and that’s good for the soul.

And we still display a full-to-the-brim double stand at Collectorama antiques fair a few times a year. That’s pretty good going, seeing how we haven’t been to Europe to restock since 2019. Fortunately, on that trip I bought 3.5 tonnes. But even with that much, we’re starting to see gaps develop in our “staples”. Only two large wooden chopping boards left. Only 14 glass pate pots. I think less than ten of those terrific marmalade jars, and less than five of the beautiful blue ceramic floor polishing jars that were excavated from the last remaining landfill in London.

Lead illustration for the Cheese chapter.

But we can still present an interesting and beautiful display, which is good because the next Collectorama is taking place this coming Saturday, 29 May. At the Nambour Showgrounds, as usual. 7am – 2pm, as usual. Come by to say hello, if you’re in the vicinity. Should be a good one.

Meanwhile, work is progressing on Calypso’s next two books, although “progressing” has taken on a whole new meaning for me since I’ve started working with commercial artists on this project.

Now I'm learning what "patience" really means, and I've found it's not really my thing. But I have no choice, so I've been keeping myself busy doing other things as well.

I recently completed a course with the Aust Film, Radio & Television School and have learned that I’m not a bossy-boots at all – I’m a Production Designer. It sounds much better when you say it like that, don’t you think?

Lead illustration for the Champagne chapter.

Every movie or TV show has a production designer, who determines “the look” of the show. What a great job! And this is exactly what I’ve done with Calypso’s books in setting a French Art Deco feel for the stories.

Every book requires me to source a few hundred visual references, because I don’t expect my artists to be telepathic but I do expect them to produce what I want. So that’s a tonne of work before we start.

Then, each artist and I workshop every image so we end up with multiple drafts as we play with the overall look, text placement, etc until we’re both satisfied. It’s a slow process, but ultimately we end up with a great product. Well, I think so. I've included here a sequence of the first four drafts of the final pages of Book 3, which I thought you might find interesting. Obviously, we're not at the final draft yet, but we're close.

I’m hoping for the next two of Calypso’s books to be published in the next couple of months. I harbor the forlorn hope that Books 4 and 5 could be ready by Christmas. But we’ll see.

And once I have three to five books in her series, my plan is to look into having it animated. I don’t know the first thing about animation, but I now know I can oversee (or at least contribute) to the production design for the series. So why not have a go? I’ve said this throughout the various iterations of my career: Nothing may come of it, but if I don’t try nothing will come of it. That philosophy has led me into some interesting situations, over the years.

Meanwhile, I’m “progressing” Vol 1 of The Foodies Guide to Antiques & Collectables. I've included some illustrations throughout this Newsletter that appear at the start of every chapter.

Right now I’m working on the Chocolate chapter. Porcini mushroom chocolate, anyone? It’s a thing. And so is wasabi chocolate - blerk! The most expensive – and many say the best – chocolate in the world costs $360 for 50gm. It’s called To’ak. Let me know if you’ve tried it and I'll include your views in the book.

Also meanwhile, I’m seriously considering holding another international art competition to start work on a different picture book series I’ve had in development for a while.

I think the series will be called Epic Sagas & Possibly True Tales. That’s the working title, at this point. The first in the series will be a retelling of the legend of George & The Dragon. The second will be the (possibly) true tale of what really happened at the Battle of Hastings. It’s a little-known fact that it was actually a Dance Battle, did you know that?

That's my own front door. Because I can.

I’ll want a different artist for each book in this series, because each story is stand-alone and I want a different look for each book.

So if you know a great artist who can work to a detailed commercial brief while still bringing their own imagination to the page, please invite them to look on very soon.

First I’ll get Collectorama out of the way, because there’s so much work involved in holding a successful event there. Then, it will be back to the books and the magazine articles.

Lead illustration for the Pineapples chapter.

Normally, I try to produce light, info-tainment magazine articles and books, but I’ve been doing a fair bit of serious research recently to produce a couple of articles on Art Crime and Antiquities Trafficking.

Art stolen by the Nazis is still being recovered, and antiquities trafficking has become a leading source of funding for a variety of terrorist organisations, so there’ve been interesting areas to look into.

Hopefully, these articles will be completed in the next few months. And I’m also producing a short series on famous shipwrecks and all the cool stuff you can buy from some of them. No, I’m not starting with the Titanic, although it will be included in the series.

Lead illustration for the Coffee chapter.

Finally, I’m preparing on spec (meaning the Editor hasn’t decided to accept them yet), a series of one-page articles tentatively called These are a Few of My Favourite Things.

It will feature normal people who have some beautiful vintage pieces they love, as opposed to full-on, obsessive collectors of one particular thing. I think most people with nice things fall into the “normal people” category, don’t you?

So if you know someone who has noice, interesting, unusual vintage pieces they might want to talk about in a glossy magazine feature, by all means ask them to contact me. Nothing may come of it …. you know the rest.

So that’s keeping me busy at the moment. I haven’t built up the website, as I have repeatedly promised to do, but that’s now moved almost to the top of my To Do List, so it's coming soon, too. I have plenty of fabulous things to offer that never make it to markets or fairs, so what better spot for them than the website? Coming soon! And this time I mean it.

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