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When is an iguana not an iguana?

When is an iguana not an iguana?

Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Red, Duochrome Blue Pearl and Indigo with body colour and scratching out.

The answer, of course, is when it’s a croissant!

You may be familiar with the recent viral news item about an iguana that was spotted in a tree outside a block of flats in Krakow in Poland. The person who reported the incident to the local animal welfare authorities said that the reptile had been in the tree for two days and that residents hadn’t been able to open their windows for fear that it might come into their homes.


Aware that iguanas are rarely seen in Poland in early Spring, the Krakow Animal Welfare Society nevertheless felt compelled to investigate. They subsequently told reporters that as the creature in the tree had neither head nor legs, they had been unable to help it. The ‘iguana,’ it turned out, was indeed a croissant, probably thrown from the window of another flat to feed the birds.

The story does sound ludicrous, but what’s actually more likely? If I fancied a pastry, I’d head for the Tesco Express down the road. I doubt I’d climb a single tree in the hope of finding one along the way.

Allow me to share with you my favourite memento from my visits to Casa Dell’Unicorno in Tuscany where I taught for many years. Gelato anyone?

Here’s another picture of my memento in a different context – and turned upside-down without the strawberry, the clingfilm wrap, the plate and the spoon.


My cherished lump of cement made several unexpected appearances at the lunch and dinner table at Casa Dell’Unicorno, disguised either as formaggio, burro or dolce in order to persuade my students of three things:
1) texture is actually related to touch, not sight
2) context is everything and
3) the opportunities to learn on a painting holiday never cease!


We can spend fruitless hours trying to make fields look grassy, rivers look watery and faces look fleshy, but we cannot see softness any more than we can see the hardness of cement when its painted yellow and plonked in a butter dish. Texture is an effect of touch and what we remember, for instance, of the softness of grass, the wateriness of rivers and the suppleness of flesh.
As Paul Klee said: “To paint well is simply this: to put the right colour in the right place.”

That’s how you get your grey-blue smears to look like water and your dirty yellow splodges to look like foliage.


And it’s also how you suggest the softness of the lips or the hardness of a cheekbone.

Context is everything. Even John Singer Sargent would’ve had a hard time making a croissant look like a croissant if it was dangling from a tree!

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