Monday, December 16, 2013

Lords in Sydney

The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney has a fabulous collection of 19th Century art, among them a number of Leightons.

Winding the skein

The paintings filled the space, displayed like a 19th century salon. Photos turned out blurry so I shot some video: 

The website of the AGNSW has excellent pics of the collection, many hi-res. Worth taking a look:


Friday, December 13, 2013

"My Story" by Annigoni ( or how I found Annigoni Down Under)

"It is a story filled with beauty, happiness and tears, which every man and woman will be moved to read."

While in Australia I had a couple of run-ins with Pietro Annigoni. Annigoni, for those who do not know, was the Italian oil and fresco painter who became famous after painting Queen Elizabeth II's portrait in 1956. John Angel, my maestro in Florence was a student of Annigoni's, so Annigoni is sort of my artistic grandfather.
While browsing the stacks at an used book store in Sydney I came across this:

It just seemed kind of random, this faded print in the cheap wood frame among  three floors of novels, bios, text books and art books. I had never seen an Annigoni print outside of Italy. I wondered who put it up. It seemed to have been there a while.

Earlier in the month, during the final days of my Tasmanian workshop, one of my models had purchased an old suitcase at the local market in Launceston. Inside were an number of magazines and among them I noticed this image:

Inside was a centerfold of the portrait of Princess Margaret:

What I had overlooked however, was the story that went with the image. Titled "My Story", Annigoni tells his life story. Here are the pages for you to read:

Unfortunately I have not yet found the next issue so we can not finish reading his story. Instead I leave you with this old clip on Annigoni and the  portrait of Princess Margaret.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Demo Down Under

This past Saturday afternoon I did an alla-prima portrait demo at Leoni Duff Studios in downtown Launceston. For students in my workshop and the  public, the idea was to show the steps in the completion of a portrait collapsed into a couple of hours. Leoni's husband Alan was kind enough to offer his handsome face for me to paint.

The following progress shots were taken at various points over 2.5 hours:

Setting proportions

Wash drawing

Beginning colour lay-in

Setting background colour

Modelling planes

Adding smaller forms

Fixing shapes

Completed portrait - 
One can always use just one more sitting

Above pics by Lynne Davies, Darren Day and Joanne Mitchelson - Thanks!

Some press coverage from the Launceston Examiner, Nov. 24 2013.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Off the Coast Podcast

Early in July I recorded some audio
with an old pal from Florence, Matt Collins. Matt is an amazing artist and one of the head instructors at Cecil Studios in Florence. Take a look at his site here:
Matt Collins website.

I decided to play around a little to try and get an idea of how hard it would be and how much time it would take to do a podcast. It took the whole day (not including the conversation) and was not that difficult. There is plenty of free online help: Top 5 pieces of free podcasting software.

The podcast is far from professional, nor complete, but the process has been fun. To listen now, click on the audio player on the top right.
You can also download the mp3 here: Off the Coast Podcast 13/08/13 - Matt Collins

The music I used was was free, from Intro piece: Inhale Part 2 by Peter Rudenko
Closing piece: Lost On Corners by The Orchestral Movement of 1932

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Ravenna was the western center of the Christendom when the seat of Rome was transfered to Constantinople. As a result, several beautiful churches and basilicas were built in the 5th and 6th century and decorated with mosaics which exist today in excellent shape.  Ravenna is a great day trip from Florence with a direct train at 7:30 am that gets you in by 10 am, costing around 11 euro each way. From the train station it is a short walk to the center and the main attractions of the city.

San Vitale  - 526 AD - one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in western Europe.   

 The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo - 561 AD

Mosaic of the greatest saint ever: Saint Martino!

The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe - 549AD -  is described as "an outstanding example of the early Christian basilica in its purity and simplicity of its design and use of space and in the sumptuous nature of its decoration". The basilica is a 15 minute bus ride from Ravenna and is situated in what used to be Classe, the main port on the Adriatic founded by Augustus Cesar around 20 BC. Today the basilica is found isolated surrounded by fields of sunflowers. a stunning contrast of nature and architecture.

For more info: Ravenna Tourism

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Taking a Leap

“Quitting my day job and starting my life as a writer was a tremendous risk. It was a fool’s leap, a shot in the dark. But anything of any value in our lives, whether that be a career, work of art, a relationship, will always start with such a leap. And in order to be able to make it you have to put aside the fear of failing and the desire of succeeding. You have to do these things completely purely, without fear, without desire. Because things that we do without lust or result are the purest actions we shall ever take” - Alan Moore

Drawing of Alan Moore by Frank Quitely

Alan Moore was the writer of some of the best comic book fiction ever and he has an interesting life story. Check out this video for more.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Workshop in Edmonton

I have an upcoming workshop in Edmonton at the studio of illustrator Mike Sass. A rare opportunity to study with a both a classical painter and contemporary illustrator. Below is Mike's excellent blog post about it:

This May I will be hosting a portrait painting (oils) workshop at my studio in Edmonton.  This week-long course will be taught by my friend, Martinho Correia.
Martinho was the former painting instructor at the famous Angel Academy in Florence, Italy.  I personally consider this school the best place to learn the technical skills of classical realist methods and have taken many workshops on the processes they teach.

With a class limited to 10 students, we'll have 2 models set up with 5 artists around each model.  Students will go through a thorough process to produced a painted portrait from life.  Martinho will be the main instructor, but I will also be available to help, and you will have access to my studio for the week to witness my oil painted illustrations and process up close.

Click for info from Martinho's site.

We are excited to offer this course and I think it will be alot of fun.  I just want to underscore the opportunity this workshop provides, especially for Western Canadians who have limited exposure to this type of instruction and experience.  Both Martinho and I have traveled and studied extensively in artistic hotbeds at great time and financial expense.  To spend a week at my studio studying with us is a fantastic opportunity to absorb our knowledge with a small class size and in the inspiring setting of my working studio.  I would have killed to go to a workshop like this 10 years ago, but had to make many costly trips to build my knowledge of this craft.  For anyone interested in travelling to this workshop, I can help you with logistics like hotels, so just ask.

I have created a Facebook event for this workshop. Feel free to join this page for future info or to discuss and ask questions.

Contact my personal e-mail: for questions or to register.  Hope to see you in May!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Studying Art in Florence

Museum Secrets from the History Channel visited the Angel Academy of Art  last summer and filmed part of my workshop there for an episode on studying art in Florence. The episode airs April 4th in Canada. The trailer is here :
Their blog is here:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Scott McCloud and Understanding Comics in Lethbridge

This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday I was in Alberta's windy city, Lethbridge, taking a workshop with comic artist and theorist, Scott McCloud. His 2005 Tedtalk is one of the best:

 "Understanding Comics"  

As you can see from his talk, he is a fine orator. His teaching skills are equally excellent. The workshop was a combination of exercises and lectures.

During the first day lecture, Scott defined comics as a series of choices:
1. Choice of moment
2. Choice of frame
3. Choice of image
4. Choice of word
5. Choice of flow

There were two in-class exercises structured around how these choices could create clarity and/or intensity. Students were given various non-sensical situations that had to be translated into images. Mine, for example, involved an astronaut walking into a petting zoo, picking up a goat and throwing it at the moon. After the goat bounces off the moon enter Einstein on a camel who proceeds to shake the hand of the astronaut.
The larger project for that day was a 16 panel comic describing our life:

The morning of day two was spent looking at and critiquing the "Life" comics. 

Scott introduced us to the Grimace Project followed by a lecture on facial expressions and gestures. He then assigned us the task of translating various emotions and gestures into drawings. The last project of the day involved us picking a hawaiian word from a hat and translating that into a story. I chose Muumuu. I came up with an elaborate story involving Yoda, Zippy the Clown and Homer Simpson. Needless to say, I never finished.
Overall a fantastic workshop. Always nice to stretch the artistic muscles in a new direction. 
I will leave you with a snap of the Alberta prairies from my drive back to Calgary.