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Pelléas and Mélisande

A couple of years ago I made these designs for an imaginary production of Claude Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande. It occurred to me the opera is really about a highly dysfunctional family and so I thought to approach as if it were an Ibsen or Strindberg play by updating the setting to late 19th century Europe. Above is the opening scene where Golaud finds Mélisande by a pool in a forest.

I imagined a stationary unit set that would remain throughout. It  could have props easily moved in and out and backgrounds projected on a cyclorama. For these pictures I used drawings and cutouts on acetate overlays for the foregrounds and separate watercolours behind the unit set painting – also a cutout.

This is the scene in which Golaud and Pelléas explore an underground grotto.

This final scene shows the death of Mélisande. I wanted to give it a sense of transfiguration to reflect the unearthly beauty of the music at this point in the opera. I imagine the light from the rear of the stage gradually increasing to a blinding intensity as the opera closes.

Here are some  of the inspirations for my designs. Sigh, I long to design an opera. What I really need to do is make a toy theatre!

More Christmas Cards!!

More Christmas cards: like the holiday promotional mailers below, these were all inspired by the Albert Racinet book, “The Historical Encyclopedia of Costume.”

Christmas Cards 2012!

This past weekend I cranked up CBC 2 and painted these gouache on coloured paper Christmas cards for colleagues and family. Saturday was Aida, live from the Met and Sunday was the all-day Christmas concert from countries across Europe: the perfect soundtrack for making these pictures!

I had so much fun! Happy Holidays, y’all. I’ll post some more tomorrow…

Happy New Year!

This is the third promotional mailer I did with Reactor for the 2012 holiday season: gouache on coloured paper with some different coloured paper elements glued on. This one was inspired by my recent trip to Japan. Tokyo is populated by what, to western eyes at least, seem to be gigantic crows. Each morning you hear them calling loudly to each other from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Happy 2013!

Happy Holiday!

The second in a series of mailers I did with my reps.

Season’s Greeting!

Here’s a Christmas-not-Christmas card from me! This year I decided to choose the entirely unrelated theme of “Far Off Lands” for a seasonal promotional email. I drew inspiration from Albert Racinet’s Historical Encyclopedia of Costumes. The piece was done in gouache and coloured pencil on coloured paper. I made a very quick sketch and, because of the opacity of the paper, I couldn’t use my trusty light table. Soooo, I just started painting!  I’m real happy with this less-laboured look! 2 more to follow…


I recently returned from a trip to the style-obsessed, ultra-futuristic, mega-meta-tronic city of Tokyo! That dynamic duo, Chris Butcher and Peter Birkemoe of The Beguiling book store here in Toronto organized the trip for a motley crew of Canadian artists to attend the Kaigai Comics Festival at Tokyo Big Site, a monolithic convention centre straight out of “Logan’s Run”. There were many highlights of the trip, including a reception at the rather forbidding, all-granite Canadian Embassy (coffee and maple leaf cookies were served in the library for the formal part, followed by a more relaxed round of beers in the staff lounge). One afternoon a few of us attended a Kabuki performance which was possibly the most utterly strange and foreign experience of the trip: fantastic sets, costume and makeup combined with extreeeeemely stylized acting and music. The air of reverent quiet in the theatre explodes alarmingly  when audience members shout out the names of beloved actors at top volume at key points in the drama – a kind of traditional Japanese version of ‘bravo’. My work was featured along with the fab trio of girls of “Love Love Hill”, a collective which does manga-inspired comics, at the Shibuya district Parco department store’s PressPop Gallery. Chris, Wai Au, Kim Hoang , Julie Beet and I gave an interview and did  readings there to a small but discerning audience. Thanks a zillion to Yaki and Masu of PressPop for this wonderful exposure! Almost the best part of the trip was a tour of the Studio Ghibli Museum on my last day. Set in a beautiful, serenely quiet old park, worlds away from the non-stop hustle and blare of downtown, the museum everywhere and in the smallest details displays the tremendous talent, generosity, wit  and sensitivity of its presiding spirit, Hayao Miyazaki. Animators’ studios are recreated complete with teetering stacks of reference books, bricabrac, ashtrays and toys in which you can get right up close and personal with real sketches and mind-blowingly detailed background art, casually thumb-tacked to the walls. Sigh… I had such a great experience traveling to this amazing place thanks to some of the wonderful people I met. In particular I’d like to thank Andrew Woodrow, David Namisato and Jeff Ellis who were so generous and  knowledgeable and showed me so much of the city. Author Jocelyne Allen was our tireless, delightful and nutty translator. It was great to meet cartoonist and manga expert Deb Aoki and fab comics creator Ryan Cecil Smith (picture with me above in the wondrous Jimbocho district, the used and rare books section of town) Also thanks to Gary Sherman, who faithfully recorded the trip in photographs. Chris Butcher deserves the highest of Hallelujahs for the superhuman work he did organizing this trip that was so enjoyable for us all! Love ya, kid!

More Magazine.

Here is a page from the November 2012 issue of More for a piece on this taboo subject. I immediately thought of Edward Gorey and tried to infuse the illustration with a touch of his spirit (but without the cross-hatching). Thanks, AD Shelley Frayer, for thinking of me for this!

Hudson’s Bay Company : “Beauty, The Guide,” September Issue.

The September issue of The Bay’s online magazine, “Beauty, The Guide” did a feature on me and my work in fashion and beauty.

The editor, my old friend Dave Lackie also commissioned several pages of illustration for a story on free things you can get or see in a department store’s cosmetics floor, such as a personalized makeup chart,

celebrity appearances,

and touch-ups for evening. Thanks, Dave and designer Jeff Smith, for this wonderful showcase of my stuff!

CA Magazine

My pal Bernadette Gillen commissioned this for Chartered Accountant Magazine. The story concerns fraud, which we often think of as a crime primarily committed by men. Apparently women are just as capable of fraud too! The picture is of Leonard Cohen, whose manager (and former lover) Kelley Lynch took over $5 million from the singer/songwriter. Thanks, Bernadette!