Words and Pictures Reviewed by Renee Hills

Review of June Perkins’s Words and Pictures Tour (Queensland Art Gallery, Sept-November 2018)

French artist Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) famously said ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’.

This was truly my experience when I joined June Perkins’s tour of Words & Pictures. June’s interactive journey through the Australian Collection features poetry and micro stories inspired by 12 different artworks. Her responses are written for visitors of all ages, with particular appeal to children and families; a delightful glimpse of art through the eyes of a poet and children’s author.

Words & Pictures is part of an ongoing project to increase engagement with artworks in QAG. Local artists and writers are invited to respond to artworks in the Australia Collection. June was thrilled to be commissioned to do this work. ‘This was one of the best emails in relation to my work I’ve ever received,’ she said.

June had complete freedom over her choice of artworks. Each response was limited to a maximum of 80 words and everything had to be completed in three weeks with a couple more weeks for editing! She spent a lot of time in the gallery, finding works that appealed to her, thinking of a child’s perspective (choosing works above and below their eye level and in a variety of media) and developing a concept for her poetic responses. The result is engaging, inspiring and easily accessible to children and adults.

June’s poetry appears in a display adjacent to author information beside each artwork. Each poem carries a delicate feather motif. This is a reference to an imaginary character that June created – Perceval’s Angel, inspired by John Perceval’s Herald Angel, a richly glazed sculpture.

John Perceval, Herald Angel, Queensland Art Gallery

June imagined the tour like a giant picture book with Perceval’s Angel guiding viewers through the pages. June was delighted to tell John Perceval’s grandson, a friend from her university days, that she was using the angel in her creative pieces for the gallery. Some of her poetry pieces begin with a quote from Perceval’s Angel who speaks directly to the viewers, guiding them to the next artwork or helping them interact with it.

‘Hop on board’ the angel invites viewers of Yvonne Koolmatrie’s Hot Air Balloon, and June adds:
‘Take yourself to the balloon’s edge,
Feel the breezes, through the sedge’

Yvonne Koolmatrie, Hot Air Balloon, Queensland Art Gallery

This is an enticing invitation to adventure and travel,  and lets the imagination ride free in this sedge grass, coil woven work suspended in space.​

On a time travel wall displaying different artists’ approaches to the Australian landscape, the angel says:
‘Listen to the music of landscapes
through the portal of Australia’s artists’

One of June’s choices on this wall is Rosalie Gascoigne’s Lamp Lit, a large work made up of letters and shapes from cut up road signs. June’s response draws on the personal experience of destruction and loss wrought by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 when a road sign ended up in her front yard; or as angel says: ‘But the real question is what will you design in response to loss?’ ​

Rosalie Gascoigne’s, Lamp Lit

And so, the adventure in art continues, stopping by at Ian Fairweather’s Epiphany, Sydney Long’s romantic and ethereally beautiful Spirit of the Plains, Sonya Carmichael’s colourful Baskets of Culture, Fred William’s vivid Echuca Landscape, Irene Chou’s suggestive Universe within Our Hearts, William Delafield Cook’s amazingly detailed and skilfully toned A Haystack, and Ray Crooke’s Woman with blossoms, reminiscent of Gauguin. June said she saw her identity in this particular work.

Woman with Blossoms, Ray Crooke, Queensland Art Gallery

Our tour ended as it had begun with an invitation to travel on in the imagination, this time on a representation of Ian Fairweather’s ramshackle craft; the one he used at the age of 60 to make a potentially suicidal 16 day crossing of the Timor Sea from Darwin to a remote coral island west of Timor in 1952.

The gift (from ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’), Michael Stevenson, Queensland Art Gallery
Kudusur, Alick Tipolti, Queensland Art Gallery

June’s verse reads:
‘You can do anything, be anything
travel anywhere…’

​The child in her poem makes the sacrifice necessary to travel to Kudusur – a reference to the dramatic mural visible through the hole in the craft’s sail. Painted by Torres Strait islander Alick Tipoti, it references paddling a canoe, seasons, ocean currents, journeying between islands and spiritual ancestors – the universal journey through life.

Don’t miss this Words and Pictures journey. Grab a child or find your inner child; help yourself to the drawing board, paper and pencils, and create your own responses.

You can take yourself on a tour anytime between 10 am to 5 pm, until the end of November.

June’s final in person tour will be on November 17th 2 pm (contact gumbootspearlz@gmail.com for more information).

You won’t regret it. All those attending on 17th Nov are invited to sponsor Magic Fish Dreaming books to go to PNG.


Renee Hills 2018-11-06

June with a tour group

Dr June Perkins is a Brisbane-based poet, blogger and children’s author, of Indigenous Papua New Guinean and Australian background, raised in Tasmania by Baha’i parents. She utilizes multiarts and multicultural stories to inspire an enriched sense of belonging and compassion in those who encounter her work. She was recently invited to share Magic Fish Dreaming at the Asia Pacific Triennial, Summer Program 2019 and became a member of Mana Pasifika research Institute. She maintains an interest and dedication to promoting diversity in the Australian literary landscape. Her first children’s book was the award-winning poetry collection, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016) illustrated by Helene Magisson.

​June Perkins’s Website
Ripple Poetry Blog

Renee Hills has always loved words and writing. A founding member of Write Links, she writes picture books (Turtle Love was published in 2017); flash fiction (Proof was published in Short and Twisted,Celapene Press 2017); and a short fantasy is to be included in the Rainforest Writing Retreat Anthology 2018.

Renee Hill’s Webpage

This review originally appeared on the Write Links Blog as curated by Lucy McGinley

(Photo credits: June Perkins, Renee Hills, Rebecca Sheraton and Maria Parenti-Baldey)

Lullabies and cradle songs

Ripple Poetry

Writing a Lullaby

I am thinking about cradle songs and their origins.
I am thinking of their patterns and intent.
I am planning a poem about a refugee mother singing a lullaby.
That lullaby is full of love and hope.
That lullaby comforts them both.
I am imagining where she sings that song.
I am seeing her when she knows that hope is gone.
I am seeing her pick herself up and keep on dreaming on.
Will you join me and listen to her song?
Will you put yourself into her journey?
Will you welcome her to your shores?
Will you add your own verse?

(c) Image and words

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Climb that Wall into Creativity

June Perkins – Obstacle – not with climbing gear.

May your week be full of things that spur you to climb any wall keeping you back from achieving your dream, and don’t forget to have the climbing gear you need on hand and the perfect climbing boots…  

I’m busy writing a chapter book and finding out lots of things about famous people and their pets.   Audrey Hepburn and a fawn, Mozart and a Starling, and Abraham Lincoln and a pig…   Non fiction genres definitely calling.

I love being in the flow of writing on a daily basis, but there’s always walls to climb … even if it’s for the characters.


Finding the Zing

Guinea Pig Soft toy Cubby – June Perkins

So today for PiBoIdMo – I was inspired by this post Plot Twists that Zing.  You just have to head over to it and have a read of that post and look at the books it talks about.  I just loved it!

I am looking for story ideas that have a clever twist, an xfactor that makes you want to read from the title alone.  It’s about pushing the limits, nothing is too crazy or out of the way.

It’s going to be fun.  What will I put into my magic zing list? What is my recipe for zing, gleaned from the Picture Book Den, fabulous blog. Plot Twists that Zing?

  1. Think of a favourite animal, in my case from Far North Queensland where I used to live, or  maybe go with one of the animals I know well like guinea pigs or Minor Birds (make sure it is something other people don’t write about though).
  2. Combine it with something kids love, pirates, fairies, wizards, magic, or dragons.
  3. Give them an unusual problem that doesn’t come immediately to mind, maybe drawn from a reality show, house sharing, cooking, music talent show.
  4. Remove something essential from a fairy tale and put something else in it to make it zing.
  5. Check no-one else has done this, and then adopt the process again, until I have generated several ideas, then pick one to work with.

I hope you find your zing today too.  I am going to apply this same rule to my chapter book.  Already I am excited about the writing day.

Seats of the Pants or Planning to make it through the first Act

Top Hat
Creative Thinking – June Perkins

So I told some writing friends recently about my plotting dilemmas and the fact I don’t want a first draft that is a total mess.I need some navigational instruments and am actively looking for them.

Some of them nodded their heads  in understanding as if this was a challenge for them too.It is definitely a matter of learning to put on a number of creative plotting hats. Remember Debono’s hats.  Well this post is focused on the blue hat (planning) with a touch of the green hat (ideas) and the red hat (emotions).

1. Choose a method that works for you.

The most wise thing I heard today was use a method of writing that works for you!  There is no one size fits all, although there are key things a story has in it that you should keep in mind.

So whether you cover a wall with post it notes with the main crisis and turning points marked out, use a spread sheet, start with a line and write, or do a whole outline of scenes before beginning, nobody can tell you ‘that’s not right,’ as long as it works for you and makes you keep  writing until your first draft is complete!

The litmus test for me, is that if I stop writing for any reason, it’s time to experiment, and try something to kick start the process again.  And what works one day, might not work the next day. Does this mean I need to give up?

No way, it means developing a deeper resource of techniques to keep me going.

2- Tension in scenes

The main thing I am keeping in mind today as I write my chapter book is to put tension into my scenes and think about that goal/conflict/setback structure, that propels the reader to keep coming back.

3 – Be playful and open to change

I  had hoped to begin my first 3000 words written with the assistance an outline of a realistic story.  However my outline ended up combining a more fantastical picture storyboard of the same story idea in front of me.  As I looked at both I decided to combine the two into a new story.

I loved the visuals of the storyboard, and I liked elements of the more detailed outline for keeping me on track for a bigger story.  The result of this decisions was that my story went from being realist to being fantasy – change number 1.

The picture book story boarding was done with Storybird by the way, and was heaps of fun.  It put magic and imagination in visual play into my creating the plot process.

4 – Listen to your characters

Then as I wrote the characters had an impulse to behave a certain way that I had not predicted, and began to come to life. An extra character came into being, and he could be important in the story.  Some characters faded away as not important to the first book in a possible series at all.  I was delighted to see the characters emerge and have possibilities for tension with each other.  Important for scene dynamics.

The setting was still realist as it had been in the draft in some respects, but the initial challenge I was going to have for the character changed. This is a huge change, and it was scary for me to ditch the old challenge.

5- Have a plan B

My outline by this stage looking decidedly shaky, but I kept on with the opening reaching about the right length, and  took solace that I still followed a more general idea of Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure.  This resulted in the establishment of my characters, the challenge for the main character, and the reaching of second turning point.

6- Give it a good beginning, edit before moving to the second act

I took the first 3000 words I had written  over two days with my initial plan, and rewrote them with this in mind and was much happier with the text overall.  I tried to build more surprise into the chapters, and tension between the characters, even if they were characters who most of the time get along well.  I rearranged a few things.  Then I kept writing, happy that the editing had strengthened what I had done so far.

The future holds …

Now I am heading into my second act.  I’ll be back to report on that when it’s finished, as this journaling takes up valuable writing and research time from my other projects.  However, I wanted to share and reflect on this process, to see if I find the same thing happening for my next book (that’s promising talking another book after act 1 of the first one).

So there you have it, a combination of seat of the pants writing, and planning.

Now I am going to study two blogs on plotting and creative storytelling from the – Wasted Poet and this post on Pixars 22 Rules of Storytelling  and just go over that opening one more time before moving on.  I think if my set up goes well the rest is going to follow! I feel like jotting down some ideas for scenes, having a cuppa, and finding ways to more me through the next act.