November 2022 Mailbag No 2

There is no better way to open one of our monthly mailbags than to welcome a new subscriber (R.T. in the USA has joined us) and with a portrait of one of our favourite artists. This is what I call a really lovely day!

Recently we produced a post on Alice Xu, recipient of the The Troy Quinliven Exhibition Award initiated in 2017 by Troy's parents Matt and Sue Quinliven in memory of their son and Sydney artist Troy Quinliven. Sydney artist Kevin McKay administers the award and each year chooses the recipient from the students graduating from the National Art School, Sydney.

If you missed the post introducing the very talented Alice Xu click here.

Recently Alice appeared in the studio of Kevin McKay bearing a gift - Alice has painted a portrait of Kevin and here we see the real Kevin with his portrait.

Portrait of Kevin McKay by Alice Xu ©

Portraits are of course often created using coloured pencils which segues beautifully into Jane's recent post on the Derwent Pencil Museum.

So many of our subscribers and followers went crazy tumbling back in time down memory lane remembering their treasured boxes of Derwent pencils. Of course some of us weren't so lucky as to have one of these cherished possessions - we can only stand by and envy those who did!

Of course if you still have your Derwent pencils - why don't you use them and show us a little image or two that you have created! Your drawing could become part of our Image Challenge series.

JANE commented:

The Museum was a surprise find and great fun. I visited the museum with the guide Rachel, we were the only ones interested – our entry ticket was an HB pencil and we were issued with a quiz – 20 questions – our competitive streak kicked in. We didn’t have a lot of time, but we did manage to answer all the questions and to our delight, 100% - the prize – some more pencils.

You’ll be pleased to know that Derwent pencils are owned by the Cumberland Pencil Company, so despite your treasured pencils not being labelled Derwent – they were still made by the same company.

Used boxes of pencils are highly sort after – vintage pencils are being advertised for good prices – check out this link.

And isn’t it funny - we were all dreaming of the same thing - owning Derwent pencils when we were young - and so thrilled to receive them. These days its all about iphones and electronic paraphernalia.


Fantastic post Jane! SO, SO very interesting ! How fabulous to have visited the Derwent pencil museum!

You are right, to own a box of Derwents was certainly my dream too! I got a box of 12 Cumberlands for Christmas one year and was very disappointed that it wasn’t Derwents! A girl at school had got a box of 72 Derwents for her birthday in the November that same year, and I was just amazed at how her parents could have afforded to do that! My sister Anie got a box of 36 Derwents in her childhood later, and I’ve still got them today!! They were certainly treasured, as you say!!!

It’s great that you picked up the fact that graphite and diamond have the same chemical formula! The one thing I remember from my school chemistry is that graphite and diamond are both pure carbon (C12), but in graphite, the carbon atoms are arranged in hexagonal horizontal layers, which slide off each other easily under pressure, ie. that is what you are doing when you write with a blacklead pencil! However, in a diamond, the carbon atoms are arranged in perfect tetrahedons, and so do not break, or slide apart in that structure. Add a bit of pressure underground and a few million years, and this is why diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man!

You all may already know this, but I find it fascinating!

A really interesting post, Jane, and the World War II info of hiding maps and compasses in a secret project is right up my alley! Fabulous, thank you!


Hi Jane - Great job getting that pencil history into such a short space! Here is a video on how pencils are made.

And MONICA enjoyed my little journey into Reflecting on Italy.

Hi Anne How beautifully picturesque those Italian lanes are. Your expert photographs depict the warming, healing effects of the sun. If Italy is a land of "wine, women and song(opera)," two important components have been left out, -sun, flowers and creepers!!" Your pictures eminently display that! I have never been there, so I am enjoying your journey. I think of the Italians as passionate, and with a love of good food- Olives and olive oil, pasta and tomatoes, all washed down with wine. It occurs to me that the wine, made with grapes matured in the Italian sunbeams, is astringent , so it cleans their teeth, and contributes to diluting the effects of their preference for consuming saturated fats. My speculation only. I look forward to more ! M.B. Tanzania

ROWDY'S comment below says farewell to Jane's experiences in Africa which you can check out if you missed them by following this linke to the TagCloud in Africa.

Jane’s post on her African tour is tremendous… her video is very professional and photography is magnificent… a wonderful life time adventure..!!!

I think there is just one thing to add….. Humphry Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in the “African Queen” on the river…

Jane is amazing with all her travels…. Take care… Rowdy….

And hang onto your seats and hats as next week Jane is off again!! Where? ANTARCTICA!

If you would like to go with Rowdy down memory lane - here is the full version of The African Queen.

Finally from JANE in response to Image Challenge No 1.

Anne - loved the challenge Hope! I looked at it and didn’t have an opinion but keep thinking about it. I’ve decided he is not a planner as otherwise he’d have found some toilet paper first! Doubt I’ll fall into the same trap! Interesting to consider it as subject for a photo competition.

And did you catch up yesterday with our Image Challenge No 2? The perfect chance to encourage you to take out your coloured pencils and start using them again. Or even take up a old grey lead and start sketching because like me - you might not own a huge box of Derwent pencils - you might have an old box of the ends of this and that!