Cheeky Dogs: To Lake Nash and Back
Dion Beasley and Johanna Bell
Allen & Unwin Children’s, 2019
Review by Kingsley Gittins
Cheeky Dogs: To Lake Nash And Back is a fascinating visual journey into the heart of life in rural parts of the Northern Territory.
Dion Beasley (artist & focus of the book) combines once again with Johanna Bell after two successful forays into the world of children’s writing. This time they are telling Dion’s story: from growing up in Tennant Creek, facing and overcoming physical adversity, to exhibitions at the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art. This is a story that had to be told.
Dion’s drawings are the main focus of the book, and they easily carry the reader through the narrative with only a few poignant sentences in support. Cheeky dogs dominate each page, but are interspersed with drawings of the local area, people in Dion’s life and a few well-chosen photographs. It quickly becomes obvious why his work is attracting the attention of the art world, his deceptively simple illustrations have real emotive depth and a dark honesty that challenges the reader in a powerful way.
Despite the sometimes-heavy subject matter, the overall tone of the book is a positive one. Dion’s description and drawings of the dogs at the various camps around town is heart-warming, yet told with a dark humour that is prevalent in the book, facing harsh truths with an unflinching attitude to a sometimes-cruel world. At times it will have you both laughing and crying in equal measure.
Overall, I was very impressed with Cheeky Dogs, it is a worthy addition to any Territorian’s library, if only for the beautiful drawings on show. Dion’s story so far is worthy of your time and attention, even though I suspect there is more to come.
Dion Beasley is the Tennant Creek artist, well known across the Territory for the much-loved T-shirt brand, Cheeky Dogs. Johanna Bellis an award-winning author and director of the Darwin-based creative production house, StoryProjects,
Kingsley Gittins works for NT Writers’ Centre, Darwin. This review was first published in Off The Leash.