Tuesday, June 30, 2015


This is not the only picture I've made of Siena, or even of the Basilica di Servi in Siena, but it might be my favourite. It's an etching, made on an aluminum plate, but based on a pencil sketch I did on site.

The colour comes from chine collé, a technique in which a thin sheet of paper - hand tinted tissue from Japan in this case - is pressed into the paper support of the picture by the etching press.

The picture was etched and printed at the Open Studio in Toronto.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sketching the sketcher

I've made a lot of portraits of Tarragon over the years. Here I took the opportunity to draw him while he was drawing a still-life of flowers. It was done with a Copic brush pen, and probably took 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jacki and Rob, unfinished

An image that shows my usual procedure for pen drawing, in which I delineate the forms of the body, and then the shadow lines on the body. Next, I would start filling in the deep shadows, but the pose ended before I got that far.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

next to the Guggenheim

Years ago, I went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice with my art class. Here's a very quick sketch of the canal outside the entrance, and few classmates, done with a dip pen and india ink.

The gallery was selling the small ceramic version of Jeff Koon's Puppy sculpture. I wish I had bought one. It would have made a great umbrella stand.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

the beacon

At night in Venice, I saw a red light glimmering over the canal, and stopped to make a watercolour.

Worth mentioning: it's not easy to paint in the dark.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Florence: Via Lamione

I made this quick watercolour and india ink sketch while strolling the countryside just south of Florence.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Memories of a field trip to Ravenna, during an Italian art class of a few (too many!) years ago.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The towers of Siena

One April I cycled to Siena, the rose-red gothic metropolis of central Tuscany that, of all the many beautiful medieval cities in Italy, is perhaps the most beautiful.

I arrived from Florence. In that city, apparently, they have a traditional proverb about Siena:

Di tre cose e piena:
Torri, campane,
E figge di putane.

I shall leave it untranslated. Let it be a warning to anyone here who’s thinking of visiting this most charming of Italian cities. It should also be a warning about Florence. For a city that for 500 years has prided itself on speaking the purest Italian (except Siena, see below), and producing the best poets (or at least Dante, who counts as more than one), you’d think they’d be able to come up with something better.

Or maybe the point is to express maximum contempt with the least possible effort. I lived in Toronto for a long time, and it makes me wonder: are there poets in Hamilton or Windsor right now, sharpening their pens?

Back to Siena. Norman Douglas summed it up in one word: "hell." I can only say that of all cities I’ve visited, except Venice, it is the most beautiful. Now if only we could get rid of the Senese, who profit from the immigrant labour of southern italy, but refuse to speak to the labourers.

They speak, tourist books claim, the most pure and refined Italian to be found in the country, but I’m sceptical. Someplace or another has to have a title like this one, but why is it always a town full of money and visibly smug in its affluence? But this is just predjudice on my part. My command of the language is not sufficient to enable me to judge for myself. All I can say is that in Siena Italian is much easier to understand than in the Veneto, and that here all the women enunciate every letter in ciao, stretching the word out so that it rhymes with meow, like a cat. It’s an enchanting habit.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The basilica at Assisi

One fine spring day I bicycled to Assisi (from Perugia - it wasn't much of a journey) with my sketchbook and sat down to draw buildings.

So here is a fast sketch of the famous basilica of San Francesco. It's a great building, if you're into gothic architecture. It's two churches, one of them built atop the other - you can see the entrance to the lower one at the bottom of the steps on the left. Whether Saint Francis himself would have been pleased with it is another question.

Even if you're not into architecture, the frescos by Giotto make the trip worthwhile, and Assisi itself is a very charming town. Here is a sketch of the town square, complete with Roman ruins, that I did on the same trip.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

don't wanna be

Robert is a beast of burden. But Jacki is not really that heavy. It's a one minute sketch, done with a china marker.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"few rap songs are about sexual inadequacy"

Drawing with the Collective in Toronto, fellow sketcher Francis F. made the observation. I wrote it down mid-drawing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Life drawing quick sketches, each done in about a minute. Or maybe two, in the case of the face on the right.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Santa Maria di Salute, Venice

A view across the quay and the loitering gondolas at the vast baroque church of Salute. It's the kind of view that's been done a thousand times but remains irresistible.

It's an etching, about 4" by 6," printed at the Open Studio in Toronto, Ontario. The uniform blue was applied with a technique called chine collé, in which a layer of tissue-thin tinted paper is laid down between the etching plate and the support paper.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Anna in a striped dress

A quick photo of a painting in progress. The dress will be in colour, and the big rectangle will too - it will be a hanging carpet of some sort. The pineapple like object will probably become a bust - but we'll see.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Venice - the gondolas on the Riva degli Schiavoni

It was a cool November evening when I sat down on the embankment to make this picture.

I was in a hurry. The shapes were quickly sketched in with a black crayon, and then rounded out with watercolour. Although I started with lines - as I almost always do - the picture quickly became about mass and pattern. The final touches were added in gouache; you can see its opaque layers where the blue covers of the gondolas are visible above the dock.

In the background, San Giorgio Maggiore was a box of shadows, except for its brilliant marble facade, which here merges with the air.