St Wite’s Feast Day

st_wite_sketch.jpgToday my sketch commemorates St Wite’s feast day which falls on the 1st of June. In the Dorset village of Whitchurch Canonicorum during the 16th-century there was a local custom of offering her cakes and ale on this day.

She is also known as St White, Whyte or Witta. Not much is known about her and she could have been an Anglo-Saxon, Welsh or Breton saint (she is known as Candida or Blanche in Brittany).

She is one of two saints (the other being Edward the Confessor) whose shrines survive the English Reformation intact. Her 13th-century shrine is located in the north transept of St Candida Church, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset (England). It was opened in 1900 and fragments of bones and teeth were found as well as a leaden casket with the inscription Hie Reqeset Reliqe See Witey containing even more bones. The shrine has three oval openings which handkerchiefs and other small articles were traditionally placed to gain healing properties and then given to the sick.

More details are found on the Dorset County Museum website.

A contemporary statue of St Wite has been set high upon the exterior of St Candida Church, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset. And this is 3D photogrammetric model of it is for those who can’t make the pilgramage to west England today.


Paper Galleon

Paper Galleon

This is my working illustration (right) which captures the essence of the Paper Galleon paper mâché sculpture created by Jessica Palmer (left). Along the bottom of the hull swims the figure of a mermaid. The sculpture was purchased by the Friends of Southamption’s Museums, Archives and Galleries (FoSMAG) for the Southampton City Council art collection. It now hangs in an upper storey window of Tudor House located in the heart of old Southampton (Hampshire, UK). The illustration was commissioned by the Friends to commemorate their 40th Anniversary this year. My working illustration featured above is the prototype painted in brown tones. The final is cast in shades of blue.

Fox Fire

arctic fox v5-small

Happy Winter Solstice!

As the aurora borealis has been lighting up the skies here in the UK, it is wonderful to find out they are associated with the northern fox in Finland. The northern lights in Finland are called revontulet, ‘Fox Fire’. One Finnish tale tells us that they are the result of a fox up north running through the snow. As it dashes along the fox sweeps it’s tail over the snow which creates sparks that leap into the sky forming the aurora.

The arctic fox also takes on the role of fox wife among the Inuit peoples of Canada and Greenland. Follow this link to a traditional Inuit story about the perils of marrying a fox wife:

Dun Unicorn

Dun Unicorn

This is my working draft illustration of a medieval dun unicorn for my latest blog on Words & Pictures (link is found below). Traditionally, the medieval unicorn is goat, ass or small horse with a horn on its forehead.

Moreover, it is important to note that not all unicorns were white. In a famous scene of a hunt for a unicorn from the Rochester Bestiary (circa 1230), the beast is pale brown.

unicorn and virgin Rochester Bestiary

In The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn Representing Annunciation (1489) by Martin Schongauer depicts a small, brown unicorn.

unicorn brown Martin Schongauer 1489 copy

My illustration for the Words & Pictures blog, however, is based upon a beautiful dun coloured unicorn with white spots from the tapestry fragment Wildweibchen mit Einhorn (The Wild Woman and the Unicorn), Strassburg, Germany dating circa 1500.

Wild woman unicorn Alsace Germany c1500 02 copy


Visit my Words & Pictures Unicorn blog

Explore the Rochester Bestiary

And learn more about the Wildweibchen mit Einhorn

Gold Guarding Griffins


I have just posted another guest blog for Words & Pictures and its topic is that of the fabulous griffins who guarded gold at the boundaries of the known Classical world. Above is how I coloured up my griffin for the blog pic.

The oldest written myth about griffins is reiterated by John Milton in Paradise Lost, Book II (1667):

As when a Gryfon through the Wilderness
With winged course ore Hill or moarie Dale,
Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stelth
Had from his wakeful custody purloind
The guarded Gold … (Lines 943–47)

Milton takes this directly from the writings of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who lived around 5th century BCE. In his Histories he draws upon a folktale derived from the forgotten poem by Aristeas. This poem describes a journey to the far north where Aristeas encountered the one-eyed people called Arimaspians, who stole the gold guarded by griffins.

It is also worth noting that Blake had drawn a stocky image of a griffin (above) in his truly visionary illustration, Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car, 1824–7.

The illustration for my Words & Pictures griffin blog, however, was inspired by the following images:


1. The Greco-Persian style griffin preying upon an ibex which decorates a felt saddle cover from the frozen tomb of Pazyryk kurgan 1, Altai Republic, 5th century BCE, as seen on display in the Hermitage, St Petersburg.

2. The golden Scythian griffins in Greco-Persian style dating 5th century BCE from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

3. The 16th-century miniature illustration of a griffin with rainbow coloured wings in the Tierbuch (Animal Book) by Petrus Candidus, written circa 1460 for Ludovico Gonzaga.

For further information go to these links

Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car, 1824–7 at the Tate

Pazyryk kurgan 1 felt saddle at the Hermitage Museum

Gold griffins at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tierbuch (Animal Book) by Petrus Candidus (in German)