In A French Market

Oil pastel over acrylic on canvas. 24x30". Plus some pencil.

This is what an outside French market looks like. It is on an old square in Aix-en-Provence, France, built by the Romans. 

I first started sketching on location in Aix, in this very location. Not much has changed…it's still hot, the French still love their flowers, the buildings are still old and weathered. I didn't know how to paint at that time…colour scared me. I was in my fifth year of art college and didn't know how to work with colour. I started with black, cobalt blue and raw umber.

And now, I teach it.

The French love red.


The Agony & The Ecstasy

With every painting an artist produces, there is a wall. A blockage.

The Agony.

It happens almost every time.

When it happens, allow it. Let the painting sleep. Put it aside. Sometimes it can be for years. 

And then the painting wakes up and you know it's time to bring it to life. A warmth flows inside. The dance begins.

The Ecstasy.


Sunday Morning, The Left Bank & Vivaldi

It was Sunday morning on the Left Bank.

We had just left our hotel. The most beautiful Vivaldi music filled the air. From somewhere.

We followed the sounds through the narrow streets, turned the corner, and there he stood. A tiny Frenchman in bright red pants playing Vivaldi on his violin accompanied by the orchestra on his speakers. 

It was stunning. It was beautiful and moving. 

The Parisian's just kept on with their everyday morning routine…the woman going shopping with her basket, the guy in the pink sweater opening up his blue awning, the lady in yellow watching.

Light Hidden

I saw this window, hidden, going up narrow steep steps inside of an old church steeple. 

I have called it "Light Hidden Is Still There". 

We can try to hide the light, keep it away, keep it locked away, but the light is always there. Shining. 

I made it up to the equally old bells. Had to go through 2 trap doors. 



Quiet Old Town Of Vinci

Leonardo was born in Italy. In the tiny minute town of Vince. Hence his name. 

We visited there last summer. It was extraordinary to walk the same streets as he walked.  Inside the huge walls to the left of my painting his works, inventions and designs can be seen. 

"Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going. Practice must always be founded on sound theory, and to this Perspective is the guide and the gateway; and without this nothing can be done well in the matter of drawing. Leonardo de Vinci

This quote by Leonardo is the reason why an artist must study the why of the craft and not merely to create.

He created the famous Mona Lisa which hangs in the Louvre in Paris. It is tiny. 

On Location

I painted this cafe sitting on location down by the lake. 

It was the hottest day in history, I am quite sure. 

The sun beat down and all my paints kept drying up on me. So, I had to keep moving everything to stay in the shade of one tree, trying to keep things cooler. 

To no avail. 

Best exercise an artist can do...paint in location. You capture the soul of the place. Surrounded by people and noise and heat and scents. It's alive. 

The Extraordinary Allure of the Orient

How much we can learn. The beauty, simplicity and quietness in their art.

One day, I would like to study under an ancient Sensei, who will teach me the old ways. 

Paul Jacoulet, a French artist many years gone, was my inspiration for this silk wallhanging.  





The Ballet School

At Canada's top ballet school. I was allowed in to observe and take photo's. For my thesis. 

These students are our future prima ballerinas.  

The grace and poise and physical fitness of the students was extraordinary.

What a privilege and honour it was to be there. 

I made sure I took off my shoes before entering the studio. 

Chattering Neurones

A neurone is a little excitable electric cell in our brain. Very technical and we all have them. They are the  main bits of our brain, nervous system and ganglia (that's our mass of nerve tissue).

They chatter with each other. 

Here's mine.

The Foot

The human foot and hand.

An artist needs to know how to draw them. They are difficult to master...the most intricate parts of the body to sketch.  

An iPad, using a simple drawing app, and ones finger, is a wonderful way to practise. Sit outside, stick your foot up on a chair and start doodling. 


Here is Fouquet's. On the Champs-Elysees. In Paris. Hugely expensive. All the chic and who's who go there. 

If you can afford it. 

We actually walked up to the door to look at their price list. All we wanted was a french coffee and a goodie in the say we had been in Fouquet's.  

Where the movie stars go. 

Needless to say, we didn't go in and have our french coffee and a goodie in the afternoon. 

Try New Things

Artists, try new styles...lest you get stuck. Then you get tired and locked in. Then your vitality wanes. 

It may work, may not. The important thing is to try new. 

To keep yourself fresh. And new. 

Madama Butterfly

By Puccini. A tragic opera that involves love, betrayal and suicide. 

Madama Butterfly falls in love with Lieutenant Pinkerton. They go through a sham marriage (from his end, not hers. She thinks it is real. He secretly wants an American wife.) and have a son. Pinkerton has to leave on his ship. Madama Butterfly waits patiently for his return. He returns, but with his new American wife. They want to adopt the son.  

She must give up her son. 

Madama Butterfly is distraught and commits suicide. 

This opera is so sad. By the end, listening to Puccini's beautiful music, everyone in the audience is crying and sobbing for Butterfly. 


The Rhododendron Bush

I lived in England as a child.  In Gerrard's Cross.

We had two huge rhododendron bushes in our back garden.

I used to creep inside one of the bushes and pretend that the fairies lived there. On the branches. They were as real as real can be.

This illustration is for that memory. 

They are still real.

The Model

The model sits with dignity.  The model is essential to the artist.

It takes years for an artist to learn how to draw the human figure...always with a live model. All shapes and sizes and ages. It doesn't matter.

For eons and centuries, the artist learns.




Verona, Italy, home of the world-famous opera festival held every summer. 

Beforehand, we ate at this little cafe. 

During the performance, we sat on ancient stone seats under the stars in the old Roman amphitheatre...they're really uncomfortable unless you bring your own pillow or buy seats with one.

After the performance, we ate pasta and drank wine at a cafe in the large square at 12:30am. We watched the crew dismantle the Aida set, place it out on the square and take in the next set of another opera for the following night. In told, there are 4 operas every summer, and all the huge sets are stored out in the open on the square. 

We watched Aida that night. By Verdi. It is a tragic love affair. At the end, she and her lover are entombed forever while the priests sing. 

 During the performance, the huge full moon rose slowly over the actors.  It was mesmerising to see live opera like this.