Photo Essay

Homage to Leonardo

Vitruvian Man and Woman

On the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci who died on May 2nd 1519.

“If you set your legs so far apart as to take a fourteenth part from your height, and you open and raise your arms until you touch the line of the crown of the head with your middle fingers, you must know that the centre of the circle formed by the extremities of the out-stretched limbs will be the navel, and the space between the legs will form an equilateral triangle”


on Human Proportions from the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci


“The age as it flies glides secretly and deceives one and another; nothing is more fleeting than the years, but he who sows virtue reaps honour”


on Phlosophy from the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

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Antigua study I – 29.11.18 – water-colour/pen and ink

Four years ago I posted about the charitable organization Heath for Humanity and the great work of their surgical missions over many years to Antigua, Guatemala. The post included a video presentation of theirs for those of you who would like to learn more about them, and you can visit their website here: h4h. Earlier this month I had the privilege of joining them for a week, working with wonderful dedicated colleagues who were making a real difference to the lives of so many; heroes all.

Here are a few of my memorable images from Antigua which include the dazzling yellows of the iconic Arco de Santa Catalina, the colourful pastels of the buildings and the Fuego volcano in the distance, which erupted once again just over a week ago.

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🇨🇦

Italy Day Sixteen: Venezia


A perfect final day to our Italian travels beginning with the morning sunshine silhouetting the San Giorgio Magiorre before revisiting the Basilica San Marco to see its marble pavements once again after seventeen years.


We then climbed the 100 steps to the terrace with its views of the Campanile and Piazza San Marco. 


Our final long anticipated stop was to the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari to see Titian’s masterpiece the Frari Assumption, just as glorious as I remembered it. 

Then one final moment to pause and take it all in before heading to the airport and London. 

I hope you have enjoyed the trip as much as we have. It’s certainly been good having you along. So many more memories to share in the coming weeks and months with photos and hopefully exciting new paintings. Stay tuned. 

escape with me

I have a treat for you today. Come and join me on my morning walk yesterday and escape for a few minutes from the hate, the anger, the despair, and the noise that we are all being pummelled with each and every day. I don’t know about you but my troubled soul needed a little healing and when the sun rose yesterday on freshly fallen snow with the mountains stark against the bluest of skies, I knew all I had to do was dress warmly, put on my boots and venture out into the crisp air and morning sunshine.  I’m happy to say it worked.

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It didn’t take long to enjoy every magical moment with everyone else who was out and about.

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This gallery, which I have also made into a slide show, I hope will help sooth your soul too.

This next photo is for Cheri and her Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadow

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As I came closer to the trees  in Vanier Park I was greeted by a symphony of sound that made me stop in my tracks and listen for several minutes, joined by others who were equally as enthralled.  Here is a short excerpt from my post entitled Birdsong for today’s Daily Prompt: Heard.  If you feel like pausing for a minute or two and hearing more visit the post and listen to it all.

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I hope this has made your day as much as it did mine.

branch majesty

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I rescued this majestic branch whilst walking home one day last summer and brought it back to the studio. It was about to be pulverized in a wood chipper but like the photinia that you will remember from my yard work to art work story, it became my model.

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Using the small branches from the photinia as drawing tools it started to come to life transforming my empty sheet of Arches watercolour paper one warm July day.

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Finally, as I completed the painting today with the brushes from the Gift of the Four Treasures, the spirit of the branch filled the studio once again and its story was complete.

first day of fall: the story

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For those of you who enjoyed yesterday’s post for the first day of fall, I thought today I would tell the story of its evolution. Two days ago my wife picked up this beautiful fallen maple leaf as she was walking home knowing how much it would appeal to me, and how right she was.  I immediately went outside and held it up against the clear blue sky, and as I turned it in the bright morning sunshine its glorious colours came alive.

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Several photographs later I was happy with what I had captured, but now how best to use them. Using Photoshop Elements I created a different layer for each of the images, some of which were duplicated, reversed and re-sized as I placed them around the central leaf.

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I could have gone on for a while but felt the need to stop, as it magically became the perfect image with which to celebrate the first day of fall.  I hope you agree.

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The Gift of the Four Treasures: Part One

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The First Treasure from the Gift of the Four Treasures

Last week I received a beautiful gift from a very special person who has returned home to Vancouver from China to complete her studies. Her surprise gift to me from Beijing could not have been more perfect and timely, as I have fallen in love working again with ink and watercolour as those of you who follow my blog know well.

The gift has also introduced me to a piece of Chinese culture and history with which I was not familiar and which I would like to share with you today: The Four Treasures of the Study, which is the translation of the Chinese characters on the top of the presentation box.

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When I opened the box here were the Treasures of the Study beautifully displayed: brushes, ink, inkstone and carved paper weights representing paper and used to hold the paper down.

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This discription of the Four Treasures, and others to follow, are from the China Online Museum:

“Four Treasures of the Study (文房四宝 wén fáng sì bǎo) is an expression used to refer to the ink brush, inkstick, paper and inkstone used in Chinese calligraphy and painting. The name stems from the time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD). Brushes and ink are two of the legendary “Four Treasures of the Study” tools of Chinese calligraphers, painters and poets over thousands of years. The other vital elements of culture are the rice paper (zhi), and the inkstone (yan) for grinding the solidified inksticks.”

Here you can see the inkstone and inks in greater detail.  The larger ink stick has two engravings on its surface, a dragon and a phoenix. The second and smaller stick has an orange blossom motive.viii

“The ink (mo) is commonly made by burning pine or another wood in an earthenware container, mixing dense ash with glue, and compressing it into an ink stick, or another form. An unusual antique piece of ink is shaped like a ruyi, a scepter tribute offering, that conveys wishes for happiness and good fortune. After shaping, it takes about two years for the ink to dry, in a totally dry and dark environment.”

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“An inkstone is literally a stone mortar for the grinding and containment of ink. Traditional Chinese ink is usually solidified into sticks for easier transport and preservation. Water is usually kept in a ceramic container and sprinkled on the inkstone, which has a generally flat surface. The inkstick would be ground with the flat surface of the inkstone. By mixing ink with different amounts of water, the calligrapher or artist can create different densities and innumerable shades of black and gray.”

An additional box of five different coloured inks was included with the gift, each with a dragon motif once again.

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The beautifully carved paper weights have engraved into the wood, bamboo, chrysanthemums, cherry blossoms and orchids

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These carved ink seals were specially made for me, one for my library books and the other for my paintings. How lucky am I?

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As you can imagine I was eager to begin using the Treasures, to grinding the ink and to letting the brushes sing and dance across the paper, and what better way to start than with the bouquet I had picked from the garden and posted on the First of September.

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“The traditional brush (bi) can be traced back to the neolithic age, but became recognized during the Warring States Period, in 476 to 221 BC. It was improved by Meng Tian, a general of the Qin Dynasty, in 221 to 206 BC. Brushes are made of animal hair, usually attached to a bamboo stick. Various kinds of animal hair were once used, like goat, ox, rabbit, sheep, marten, badger, deer, wolf, each having certain properties. They can be categorized by their size: large, medium and small; and also by the strength: soft (usually taken from goat), medium (taken from rabbit, or a mixture of goat and weasel hair) and hard or stiff (taken from weasel tail). Hair of different animals can be combined to create different textures.”

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Thank you Charmaine for this beautiful gift, which I will treasure always.

This First Treasure is for you.

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a mini retrospective

“A studio is not only a place, it’s a state of mind” Tony Smibert

On July 1st I set out to work my way through Tony Smibert’s Painting Landscapes from your Imagination, and as those of you who followed my progress know, yesterday I completed the project that I had set myself. July was also World Watercolor Month thanks to Charlie O’Shields, so this was the perfect fit.

It’s always fun to look back sometimes so I thought today I would give myself a little
mini retrospective for the month of July.

My thanks to Charlie and to all of you who joined me on the journey, and of course a big shout out and thank you to the great Australian artist Tony Smibert whose books are a source of such great inspiration to so many.

Tony dedicated his book to his two children, so I would like to dedicate my “retrospective” to my beautiful granddaughter who is really the greatest inspiration of all.

Studio 365: Day 287

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What could be better than the perfect day in London, beginning with a latte on Waterloo Station before walking to Tate Britain, with so much to enjoy on the way: the London Eye, Westminster Bridge, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Churchill’s statue, Richard Coeur de Lion in Old Palace Yard, and then along Millbank to my favourite gallery and a return to the Turners’ and so many other memorable British artists. Come and join me and enjoy the day…

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…on to France and the Dordogne in the morning. See you there.