Monday, November 28, 2011

Drawing on the iPad

I made a drawing of Tarragon drawing on the iPad. It was done last May, while we were hanging around at Katherine's flat in Islington. The iPad was new at that point; I think this was the drawing he made.

My drawing was made with a brush pen and some red china marker. It took 30-40 minutes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Inez de Castro sketch

A sketch for a new drawing depicting the legend of Inez de Castro. It's a story replete with murder, revenge, desecration, and over-the-top violence. Which is everything I want from a medieval tale.

In the sketch, the lords of Lisboa pay homage to the dead body of Inez, overlooked by the "king still young there beside her." The words are Ezra Pound's, from his Canto XXX.

The drawing is in pencil, and photographed rather than scanned, so please forgive the image quality.

Hopefully less time will elapse between this sketch and the finished version than between the early version and complete drawing of Eurydice, Eurydice.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Il castello di Frosini

A very small etching that I recently made at the Open Studio in Toronto. It's just over an inch tall.

There's a certain pleasure in miniaturization. I've always wondered if it's the same enjoyment we take in high-density imagery, such as Russian icons or paintings by Gustav Klimt - the sense of too much information crammed into too little space can be very enticing.

In any case, I starting making the tiny landscapes because there's often no time for a larger drawing, especially when you're cycling across Tuscany.

This scene is of the castle and small hamlet of Frosini (population: 45) in the Province of Siena. It rests on the flank of the low mountains dividing two fertile river valleys. The road in the picture has, with various pavements, served as Siena's main link to the sea for over a thousand years. In short, exactly where you would expect to find a castle, and indeed, it first appears in history in an 11th century document.

A century or so later it belonged to the Knights Templar, and then to the city of Siena. These days, it's privately owned. I'd love to see the inside of the castle.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tattoo Design: Nec Spe, Nec Metu

A restrained and deliberately classisizing design for a tattoo, derived from an intarsia panel I once saw in the church of San Miniato al Monte in Florence.

The Latin text, on the other hand, I encountered in a monastery in Parma, where it formed part of the decoration painted by Correggio in the Camera di San Paolo. It was the personal motto of that incredible megabitch of the Italian renaissance, Isabella d'Este.

The lines come from Cicero, who observed that the magistrates of Rome should be overcome neque terror nec vis, nec spes nec metus, nec promissa nec minae, nec tela nec faces, i.e. neither by terror nor violence, neither hope nor fear, nor promises or threats, nor arms or fire.

The phrase has been used ever since to characterize individuals of power and authority. Isabella, herself a ruling duchess, certainly possessed both qualities. Whether she lived up to the motto is another story.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tree on the Heath

That little tree, lonely as a monk on a beach, reminds us that in life perfection is inversely proportional to its duration. Which is a traditional enough theme in recent landscape art. One might think of Kawase Hasui, or Anselm Kiefer.
The green of the tree may signify a sliver of hope in bleak times, as in Casper David Friedrich's Winter Landscape. But it is equally possible that its denuded branches are telling us that hope is fleeting.

From such equivocations art is made.

And therefore, a poem by Bashō:

    This autumn -
why am I growing old?
    bird disappearing among clouds.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keyhole Session: Medusa

Why not another picture from this week's Keyhole Session?

It's Medusa, post transformation. Still looking pretty, snakes notwithstanding. But the model did do an excellent job of conveying a suitable degree of creepy fierceness.

In reality, her lipstick was a not-very-vivid bluish black. But had I left it that colour, the octopus (or is it Cthulhu?) tattoo would have been the focus of the composition, and we can't have that. If I'd had time for the other dozen tattoos and scarification things might have been different.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Keyhole Session: The Unexpected Present

Earlier this week I dropped in at the monthly Keyhole Session here in Toronto. It had a classical theme, with the models dressed (well, undressed) as Athena, Perseus and Medusa. Good fun all round.

The pose in this drawing was supposed to be Athena transfiguring Medusa into her new hideous form, but it somehow lacked the severity the scene calls for. Nor did she become very hideous.

(Mind you, the repulsiveness of Medusa is a vexed question. The ugly face originally had an apotropaic function, but a host of (male) artists and poets seem to have decided that she remained pretty after Athena's curse, in a snakes-for-hair kind of way. Although not in Clash of the Titans.)

A nice composition, anyway. It was fifteen minutes long, which is never enough for me to finish two figures.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Asleep and dreaming

Sometimes your model falls asleep. In would be a sin not to take advantage of the opportunity.

As you can see, it's an old drawing. Sometimes I wonder whether I've improved at all...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Castel di Poggio

Another castle, this time in the hills overlooking Florence. It's a private residence, and difficult to approach. I was walking up to Fiesole on a drear November day, and took a break to make this sketch.

This one might be another entry in a hypothetical book of boring castles. I'd buy it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Château de Lourmarin

Castles are one of those things that should be interesting. Evocative, mysterious, foreboding. Things like that.

But they speckle the landscape of Europe like ants at a family picnic. Inevitably, some of them are boring.

The Château de Lourmarin is one of the boring ones. Despite its location in one of France's most ostentatiously charming villages, there is really nothing engaging about it. It has a vague association with King Rene of Provence - who was an intriguing man - but he had many castles, most of which are more distinguished than this one.

For those who like medieval things, I should note that it was founded in the 12th century to guard the pass between the greater and smaller Luberon massifs. But the oldest extant fabric dates from 1475, and the renaissance embellishments from the 1520s. There was a further, extensive, restoration in the 1920s, on the part of one Robert Laurent-Vibert, a cosmetics magnate, who perished in an automobile accident before he had time to enjoy his private castle. These days it's a museum. I visited a few years back.

There is another drawing of the castle, with attendant village, here.