Thursday, September 30, 2010

A fork in the road.

As a follow-up to yesterday, here's another grim winter landscape of the village. The viewpoint of yesterday's painting is reached by following the road up to the right.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Winter in the village

A bleak day in Compton. It's sometime in December, when the short days remind us that England is on the same latitude as Labrador.

I did a watercolour of the same view, but without the dismal claustrophobia of Tarragon's oil painting.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Spending time at the airport

is always tedious. And the airport at Forli - it serves Bologna - is too dainty to support even a single bookstore.

I had nothing to do but draw, for hours and hours. Poor me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

an arts and crafts postcard

There's something deeply fascinating about static design. Or if you prefer, ornament. It's an almost content free aesthetic, but one that conveys the sensation of lush richness far more efficiently than figurative or landscape works ever manage.

Architecture, not paper, is the ideal setting for this kind of ornament; things like the Alhambra, Palazzo Ducale, Sagrada Familia or Watts Chapel. Sadly, mainstream contemporary architecture has not employed this approach to visual design since the 30s.

I did this postcard a while ago, under the influence - obviously - of William Morris. It's a bit too glib and symmetrical for my current taste, but it achieves the intended effect.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

At the Palio

The trouble with the Palio in Siena is that the crowds are far more in evidence than the horses.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Piazza San Pier Maggiore

A memorable, triangular piazza in Florence, in which I ate many a kebab and drank green beer on St.Paddy's Day.

It's on the eastern verge of Florence's old core, just before the ring road. I passed it every day, walking between the studio and my flat - which was well beyond the ring road, in a somewhat drear neighbourhood by the river.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Artists at Dr.Sketchy's

The Dr.Sketchy's life drawing sessions attract all types, which is nice. We're all there to draw the models, of course, but a fair bit of warm-up and break-time drawing occurs.

Once I get going, I like to keep drawing for the entire evening.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Two sketches from the outskirts of Florence

Two more swiftly done watercolours, both done on a postcard-size pad. Never tried to mail them, though.

Fiesole is a small community perched high on the mountain overlooking Florence to the north. A thousand years ago it was a dangerous rival to the larger city, but the Florentines put paid to that with customary brutality. The picture depicts the campanile of the village's main church.

Ponte a Mensola was a handful of buildings clustered around - as the name implies - a bridge over the Mensola stream. These days it's entirely subsumed into Florence's east end. The church in my sketch is renaissance era. It's not too impressive itself, but well situated on the top of a slope with a cypress-lined path leading up to it.

Friday, September 17, 2010


A quick and dirty sketch of the poppy beds outside the entrance to the musei civici in Padua.

This was done in perhaps five minutes. At that rate there's no room for details, only the briefest impressions. Although apparently I couldn't stop myself from filling in the brickwork.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Anna, twice.

Sometimes it happens that you encounter someone, you hang out with them a lot, and then you never see them again.
So it was with Anna, whom I met one hot summer in Toronto. Now, I think, she lives in England.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Early Spring Woods

An understated landscape by Tarragon. Again, the subject matter derives from a few square miles of south-west Surrey. Here's it's given a more idyllic guise, Constable by way of Peter Doig.

I've made some pictures of the same region. Here is a very different approach to the same woods.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

composition with two figures

Every now and again, an apparently random juxtaposition produces an above-average design.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sargent's Sunday Mass

Sigmund Freud:

"Once, as I was roaming the unfamiliar and deserted streets of a small Italian town on a sunny afternoon, I found myself in a district whose nature could scarcely be in doubt. At the windows of the little houses, only painted women were visible, and I quickly turned around and quit the street as soon as possible."

"But after wandering aimlessly for a while, I found myself on the same street again, where my presence began to attract attention. My rapid retreat had only one result: after several other vicious circles I found myself in the same place, for a third time."

"At this point I was seized by a feeling I can only describe as disturbing, and I was happy when - having given up any further attempts at exploration - I found myself back in the square I had left just a short while earlier."

Of course, for Sargent, such a thing would have happened not on sunny streets, but dreary Venetian ballrooms.

The quotation is from Das Unheimliche, in Freud-Studienausgabe (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1975), vol.3, p.228.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Il Molo

The view from the Molo - the quay at San Marco's opening onto the mouth of the Grand Canal - across to Santa Maria della Salute.

It is, of course, impossible to make etchings of Venetian subjects without evoking Whistler. But where his etchings were animated with a fairy-like lightness of touch, here I was aiming for a heavy, almost claustrophobic atmosphere.

I chopped off the top of Salute and reduced its gleaming marble to a slab of grey. The unified colour tone is achieved with a technique called chine colle; during the printing process, a layer of hand-tinted Japanese tissue lies between the plate and the heavier European paper. The pressure of the press impresses the image through the tissue onto the heavier sheet.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A preparatory sketch for an oil painting

Tarragon doesn't usually bother with elaborate concept drawings. This one is a bit more free-standing than usual.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Another page from the Provencal sketchbook.

More of that abrupt Provencal gothic. In Avignon, again. My notes indicate that it's called the Temple Saint Martial. Despite the name, it is very clearly a Christian church.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cafe Sketchbook

A very presentable girl I found lounging around on campus.

You can make out the rudiments of another sketch just above her head. Whoever that was, they got up before I could make any progress.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I'd like to say this print is about the interplay of colour and form and value. And all that would be true, but more than that, it's a pin-up.

Which is what the title says, of course. It's a reference to a more famous nice bottom.

It's a large aluminum etching, plus watercolour.

Thursday, September 2, 2010