This Christmas, be very nice to yourself or someone you want to impress.

Here is my limited edition hand-coloured linocut portrait of David Malouf, which appears on the cover of the latest Australian Book Review (Dec 11 – Jan 12). I should’ve started flogging this earlier except that I quite forgot — the post-holiday cascading deadline syndrome.

I dropped in at the ABR office (an occurrence as frequent as a dry and hot December 25th in Melbourne) and was chatting to Mark, the dep. ed., when the phone rang — which turned out to be some wonderful person ordering the Malouf print as a Christmas present. And Mark said a couple had been acquired that morning, one by CAL, so there was a powerful smell of printer’s ink in the air.

W.H. Chong
In the library (David Malouf), 2011
linocut on Arches cream paper, hand-coloured
25 x 20 cm (image), 38 x 28 cm (sheet)
edition of 20

Conceiving Patrick White; wrestling with Dorothy Hewett; poaching Malouf

The Malouf print is one of a fundraising series, part of ABR‘s 50th anniversary celebration; this year I’ve had the challenging fun of making portraits of some of our great writers: Paul Kelly, Dorothy Hewett, Patrick White, Kate Grenville, David Malouf (and … Julian Assange!). White was the most conceptually dense; while Communist Hewett, Red Dot, nearly wrestled me into the floor (the version I didn’t use). I understand the White print (–or to be exact, footage of me and the printer, Trent, making the print–) will be used as “eye candy,” to quote the producer, behind the end credits of an ABC doco of the Nobellist, to be screened on his centenary next year.

Assange, whose late and contested autobiography was due out that issue, gave me the enjoyable if tricky task of finding the key — it turned out he was a very naughty boy. (I hope he gets to have a good Christmas, sans keys.) With Kate Grenville and Paul Kelly I got to sit down to talk with them while they rather self-consciously adopted natural poses for a sketch (actually not so much talk; more like an anxious absence of talk). Better them than me. Here’s a series of the Kate Grenville drawings:

I had drawn Malouf last year at a talk he gave for ABR. I poached his likeness from a difficult situation; I admit I was rather surprised with the result — you can never second guess when something will come off. A friend who had been introduced to the Man insisted on showing him the drawing in my sketchbook; it was hard to say if Malouf was less keen to see it or me less inclined to show it. But she managed to wrangle our magnetic repulsions (not quite our shyness, but a dread, on the one hand of chancing offence, and on the other of being dismayed) — Malouf looked down at the sketch as I looked at him looking. The great writer said, Ah, um, mm. And we happily, gratefully, parted, me towards the drinks table. But I decided the drawing was satisfactory . . . the likeness was in place and the distinctive angle imparted a kind of deeply, lovingly bookish feel.

Christmas Wishlist

Now, when will Les Murray comes to the party?(I have a lot of drawings of the great Les); or maybe Peter Carey, on one of his flying visits; or Helen Garner — that peach of a writer. (But I see that “peach” has some other less than lovely allusions in slang, *sigh* . . . that jewel of a writer; no, really, jewel is too much hard and shard — peach is the thing: ripely warm, its golden yellow fuzz in an auric halo against the sunshine, hanging low on a branch. Sorry sorry, but it is Christmas.)

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Malouf print details: you can order the Malouf print here, along with the rest of the series.