Harpy Sgrafitto, Sculpture & Paintings

The birth of this project can be traced to two main events. The first was my quiet early morning walks through foggy Venice with my sketch book and the second was my intriguing visit to the studio of the artist Paula Rego in London. Paula was in the process of making a series of ‘creatures’ in the form of nearly life-size human dolls out of cloth and found materials. Amongst these was a drawing of a child with wings instead of arms. This particular image stayed with me and in my mind began to develop into children with bird bodies before finally evolving into the Harpies reminiscent of Greek mythology, but with a twist.


Harpies are small statured females with a human head and bust, but the body of a bird of prey. Locating them in Venice during the Renaissance was not a difficult decision given they work as high class courtesans, which was a familiar facet of Venetian society at that time.The small sgrafittos provide a glimpse of Harpy life at night.

Harpy children are allowed to run free and are quite feral until they begin their singing and comportment lessons. I wished to record this stage of their young lives in painting and etching as well as sculpture.The small ceramic busts of the Harpy children will become mixed media sculptures with feather wings and velvet bodies supported by beaded wire legs; their hair will be fine lambs wool.They will be presented with their surly scowling faces in pairs or threesomes, representing sisters and cousins.

The Harpy oil paintings on gessoed wooden panels, will mainly focus on portraits of the children with the scowling and unfriendly expressions adopted when visited by a stranger. Sometimes these children will be portrayed with a parent or older companion and, at other times, with their preferred lion cub play fellows.