Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reflections in a wine bottle

Gainborough used to discover landscapes in the arrangement of his salad greens - think of that the next time you see one of his formal portraits. All those trees? Broccoli.

This landscape was equally impromptu. Tarragon is able to discover such things in a wine bottle.

He wouldn't be the first.

It was done on the iPad, using the Brushes app.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The pollarded trees of winter

A row of pollarded trees on a damp day in autumn, guarding the entrance to some Florentine estate.

They reminded me of the original version of Snow White, in which the trees of the forest clutch like the talons of the wicked queen.
Ineffectively, although poor Snow White couldn't know it at the time.

These trees look rather ineffective too, the sad truncated things. As a method of keeping vegetation in check, pollarding is effective. But until the leaves bud in spring, they take on a strange anthropomorphic countenance unveiled by the usual screen of small twigs and branches.

Like the suicide trees in Dante, perhaps. That might be appropriate for the entranceway to a certain sort of Florentine villa.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A old painting

Years ago, when I was a poor student, I used to cover strips of cardboard with acrylic housepaint, in order to have something to paint on. Canvas was expensive.

I'd leave the cardboard lying around the room I lived in, and when opportunity struck, I was ready to make a painting.

Here's one of them, done from life with a pencil and acrylics:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A rifleman of the War of 1812

In the spirit of the 1812 bicentennial, here's a British infantryman of that era. When I saw him he was failing to repel the American assault on Fort York, and would shortly withdraw to the shelter of the Gardiner Expressway.

Despite the fact that neither of the British Rifle regiments were at Fort York, he's dressed as a rifleman of the 60th Foot, and apparently armed with a Baker rifle. No doubt he's an advance scout who got lost en route to Maine, which his battalion did help occupy in the summer of 1814.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Whitney Hall in winter

It's only October, but it feels as if winter is already upon us. There are many good things about Canada, but the weather is not among them.

This is more of a February scene, though; it's a Georgian style block that serves as one of the University of Toronto's prettier colleges. It's also, I think, the only one from the 19th century that isn't dressed up in  typical campus gothic revival. I love faux-medieval architecture as much as the next person, but some variety is nice.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

cafe sketch

A very quick sketch done in the Perkins cafe at Duke University. I used a fine-tipped micron pen, and had only a minute or two before she got up.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

basilica di Santa Maria e Donato

A drawing of the beautiful basilica of Santa Maria and San Donato, on the Isle of Murano in the lagoon of Venice.

I made the picture with a china marker and watercolour - two mediums that do not complement each other. The roughness of the china marker is a sharp contrast to the delicacy of tone possible with watercolours, although here I laid down the paint more garishly than usual.

Murano is a peripheral suburb of Venice that is chiefly famous for its glass. Other than glass studios, its principal attraction is this church, to which my sketch hardly does justice.

It's an old church, perhaps going back to the 7th century, although the structure is largely of the 11th century. The famous mosaic pavement within dates from 1140.

Also inside are the bones of a dragon slain by Saint Donatus. Dragons were apparently quite common in Italy in the late Roman period, but seem to have been largely exterminated by the saints of the 4th and 5th centuries. Certain heathens have attributed the bones behind the altar of this church to a pleistocene megafauna of some sort, but they have no poetry in their souls.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Sarah is an expert in the ivory trade of the 12th and 13th century Mediterranean. I drew this at a conference of Canadian Medieval Art Historians, and used photoshop to colour it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Studio

Tarragon recently abandoned his garret in Hackney for a new studio. The floral wallpaper will not be missed.

Here's a photo of a wall in the new space. He's hard at work on portraits, and indulging his love of pensive Victorian maidens.