Monday, April 29, 2013


I fancied these were growing on the verge of a mediterranean patio, but where did the umbrella come from? It's quite ugly.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The story of Tess is one of my favourites. Most women distrust the expectations of men who have fallen in love with the protagonist of this book. Well they might. Most men respond to that distrust with the blunt retort of, "baby, I'm no Angel."

Please excuse the glare. It's the aura of light that follows Tess around. She can't help it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Eam ut cum patre suo laetanter biberet invitavit

Once upon a time Alboin, warrior king of the Lombards, made war against the neighbouring kingdom of the Gepids. He overthrew them, killed their king and seized the king's daughter Rosamund to be his wife.

Some years later, Alboin led his people south across the Alps and set up a new realm in what we now call Northern Italy. One day, in his court at Pavia - about half-an hour south of Milan - he had too much wine at dinner.

He called for Rosamund. When she arrived, he took out the cup he had made from the skull of the dead king, and invited her to enjoy a drink with her father.

Whether she drank or not is unrecorded. 
What we do know is that soon afterwards she had him murdered.

The story allegedly took place around 570. The written version that still survives, and from which I took the Latin title, was written perhaps in the 770s.

Although the picture illustrates a historical event, it does not attempt to be accurate. Even if the story is true, we know so little of how people appeared in the 500s that attempting a reconstruction would be futile. And also tedious.

Instead, I've tried to imagine how the scene might appear in a modern stage production, in which accuracy is less important than visual impact and the impression of exotic antiquity.

This drawing appeared in the 2013 edition of the Hart House Review.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


At the end of a long night of posing, sometimes the model needs to relax with a drink. It might be a Bloody Caesar, or it might be kool-aid.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Esther, the beauty pageant winner

Actually this is just a picture of a young beauty combing her hair. But as it happens the model's name is Esther, named after the winner of the first ever recorded beauty pageant (according to the Old Testament, although it is possible that Helen has priority).

The historical Esther had the good fortune to live a happy and carefree life with the pharaoh in his big house with many servants. As is often the case, her old family unit weighed heavy on her conscience and strained her relationship with her husband. From his point of view it was a classic case of "not-the-inlaws-again". As I said, this has nothing to do with my picture.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Saint Nicolas in Compton

The ancient parish church of St. Nicolas, in Compton, Surrey. I drew this on a fine day in May, my back to the old stone wall encircling the church yard.

The oldest parts of the church, the square base of the tower and parts of the walls, have been there for over a thousand years, and are sunk deep past the level of the turf. That pointed steeple is a mere six hundred years old in comparison.

It is really an interesting building, which is gratifying, since there's no guarantee one's local church will contain anything of interest. It has a cell built into the north wall, where an anchorite might have permanently immured him or herself in penitence for sins, or simply to escape this loathsome, fallen world. There's also a leper's niche, through which a leper, for whom mingling with the parish folk was taboo, might take communion from outside the church.

Worth mentioning, too, that it lies close by the Pilgrim's Way to Canterbury, and was regularly visited by people seeking the shrine.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bamboo at Kew Gardens

This picture reminds me of an Ito Shinsui print of a sexy woman trying to eat a firefly. Her fan doubles as a big moon on the horizon and triples as a light reflector placed conveniently for the photographer who is tired of young idols who just want to eat insects.
Most photographers aspire to something more respectable, jobs for National Geographic and the like. This is why painters are sensitive about photographers.