Sunday, July 29, 2012

Santa Maria del Populo

A view of the backside of the church and piazza of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, drawn from outside the walls.

Done with a pencil on a hot June day. I made an array of colour notes, visible around the drawing, in case I wanted to make a painting later.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Godalming Power Lines

A landscape drawn with black markers on site - along the riverbank west of Godalming - and coloured in photoshop.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Three students, one professor, and the tower of the church of St. Apollinaire Nuovo in Ravenna.

Friday, July 13, 2012


A quick sketch of my family's much loved and much missed West Highland White Terrier. Quinta was with us for fourteen energetic and inquisitive years, and brought joy to the household. Even when she went down to the water and rolled on the dead fish.

It is difficult to say how much a pet can mean to one, and how much she might be missed when she is gone. But some portion of that sentiment can be found in this poem, by Henri Coulette:

Lord of the Tenth Life,
Welcome my Jerome,
A fierce, gold tabby.
Make him feel at home.
He loves bird and mouse,
He loves a man's lap,
And in winter light,
Paws tucked in, a nap.

I think it conveys adequately enough both mourning for a lost companion, and the satisfaction that ones's companion was possessed of such completeness and excellence.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Local Colour

A page from an old sketchbook. I was making quick sketches from life, plus colour notes, and then painting them later.

I took that book everywhere for about four months - as long as it took to fill it - and it got a bit beat up along the way.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Uncle Michael

A throwaway portrait of my uncle Michael, done with china marker and gouache on a piece of scrap board. He's passed away since, and I wish I'd taken the time to make more pictures of him. But he was never very keen on staying still.

Even as I was doing this one, he was always on the verge of getting up.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In dreams we are alone

As I made the final marks in this drawing, some lines by Claude Debussy came to mind:

The Colour of my soul is iron-grey and sad;
Bats wheel about the steeple of my dreams.

Fast asleep in the bustle of a major university building, she seemed to me both serene and melancholic.

Debussy wrote the lines in an 1894 letter to the composer Ernest Chausson.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

L'Abbaye de Fontfroide

A view of Fontfroide, an old abbey near Narbonne, itself a provincial town enlivened by some beautiful architecture but depressed by dust, heat, and a rather medieval sense of xenophobia.

The abbey's name, which means cold spring, explains its presence in an otherwise bleak almost-desert of bare rocks and low, tough, vegetation. It's a beautiful landscape, but an uninviting one. The route from Narbonne took me through a Roma encampment, an old quarry, and past a mysterious stone fort.

For those that are interested in things medieval, the abbey stands out in the history of persecution. It was a monk of Fontfroide, Peter of Castelnau, whose murder provided the pretext for the Albigensian Crusade, and throughout the Cathar era the abbey served as a centre of Church orthodoxy.

One of its abbots, Arnaud Nouvel, would serve as papal legate in the trial of the templars, but also found the time to protect the rich and powerful against accusations of heresy. A nephew of Nouvel, Jacques Fournier, was also an abbot, and eventually went on to become Pope Benedict XII at Avignon. He was an unrelenting inquisitor, efficient administrator, and an adornment neither to church nor humanity.

Fontfroide lost three-quarters of its tenants during the Black Death, and did not recover until the 17th and 18th centuries, when new buildings were added in the elegant classical style of the period. The monks fled during the revolution, but the abbey's location saved it from harm, and it was refounded by Cistercians from Sénaque in 1858. Prior to the dissolution under the 1901 Law of Congregations, the final abbot of Fontfroide, Père Jean, acquired a saintly reputation.

In 1908 the symbolist artist Gustave Fayet, together with his wife Madeleine, purchased Fontfroide at public auction. There is a story that they wanted to preserve the abbey from the rapacity of such American collectors as George Grey Bernard, who did succeed in taking large chunks of the nearby monasteries Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa and Saint-Guilhem-le-Desért across the Atlantic, where they formed the nucleus of the Cloisters Museum in New York.

In any case, Gustave Fayet used the abbey as a private painting studio, and also lent it out to his friends, most notably the great printmaker Odilon Redon. It remains in private hands to this day.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Kathleen in a meditative posture. Posing is much harder work than it seems - it's rare in real life for any of us to maintain the same posture for very long, even when we're sleeping. It's amazing just how uncomfortable a supposedly comfortable position can be after just a few minutes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

2 men smoking

Something to match yesterday's post:

This is a pencil preparatory sketch - the finished work will be in ink and various colour media.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2 Women

It's Pride week.

Drawn from life at the Keyhole Sessions in Toronto, Ontario.