Monday, February 27, 2012

the dock at Sirmione

A memento of a pleasant day in May. It was a day trip from Verona; we were there to see the water-courtyard of the castle, eat gelato and maybe swim a bit. And the very authentic house of Catullus, of course.

So naturally it rained. But between the rainfall - which came down from the Alps regular as clockwork - there was time for a few watercolour sketches. This is one of them. Another is here. It's not impossible that the pictures are better for the lousy weather.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Years ago Tarragon sojourned on the North Atlantic coast, and amidst the fog and the Labrador current, something Scandinavian stole into his work. His figures turned their backs on one another, or took up station alone in empty rooms, as here. It's a stage many of us go through, but not all of us do it on canvas.

A thread of attenuated minimalism runs through Tarragon's paintings to this day, but it now expresses itself more in the landscapes than in figurative paintings. And so the nordic angst of works like this one has relaxed a bit, into a quiet sense of solitude. That's the way life goes.

I don't know anything about this painting, or if it still exists. For myself, I have decided that it shows the protagonist of Kurt Hamsun's Hunger, sitting disconsolate in a Hammershoi interior. He is dreaming, perhaps, of richer colour and thicker paint.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

messy red lines

An old drawing, done with a red china marker on low-grade paper. It's yellowed even more since.

It's a nostalgic feeling, looking at an eleven year old drawing. The occasion has vanished from my memory, but I look at the two aborted starts in this picture and know I must have been a frustrated draftsman that day. How fortunate to have a patient model.

Monday, February 20, 2012


A sketch made while waiting for the ferry back to Naples. Capri is a weirdly charming place, redolent of past glories without being pretentious. Perhaps because those glories were themselves a sequence of nervous foreigners, men and women in pseudo-exile, trying to forget and failing miserably. Like poor Alfred Krupp, for example.

Anyway, the view shows the rise leading up to Tiberius' villa. Perhaps the cliff in the picture is the point from which ill-performing catamites were tossed, if we can believe Suetonius' account. (We can't...)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

the red tie

I dropped by the Keyhole Session in Toronto this week. It was a Valentine's themed version, and therefore all about lust and romance. Well, just lust.

So pretty much the same as every other keyhole event.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A boot for Saint Valentine

People sometimes complain that holidays are ruined by materialism. But really, we all live in a material world. And so I made this picture of material things as a Be My Valentine. Everybody likes flowers,  after all, and quite a few of us like boots, too.

Wikipedia tells me that 190 million cards are exchanged each year on Valentine's day. This, presumably,  won't contribute to that statistic.

The picture was made with pencil, watercolours, and several kinds of marker.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

unfinished sketch

The trouble with randomly drawing people in cafes is they get up and leave...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Keyhole Session: A Romantic Gesture

Two women at the Keyhole Session drawing event last march. The drawing was done with various markers and a red china marker. It took about ten minutes.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Brilliant Laundry

The vivid Italian sun against a house and its laundry in the village of Ponte a Mensola, a frazione on the eastern outskirts of Florence. I lived nearby, and often walked out to make sketches.

While I was making this one, a local man approached and started telling me about the stone quarries up the road in Settignano, and how Michelangelo swallowed the dust from the stone along with his mother's milk. I knew the story, but it sounds better served up with the spice of regional (or is it subregional?) patriotism.

The picture was made with pencil, gouache and watercolour in something less than an hour.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jacki and Rob

Drawn from life in about fifteen minutes, while listening to Nathaniel Merriweather. Good times.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Surrey Woods

The woods in winter, in the Downs south of Guildford.

Tarragon has painted in these woods before, in the spring. I've also made a drawing of the same woods, and of a lonely man stopping at the crossroads in their midst.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

sketchbook page

Ah, it's February, the month of romance.

For anyone who's curious, here's what a warm-up page from my life-drawing sketchbook looks like: