The Quarantine Drawings

When I was younger, I had the good fortune to join my parents on a few of their European trips. My stepfather and ace illustrator Carlos Diniz was also my mentor and employer, so I spent a lot of time visiting the important architectural wonders that were so abundant in the wellspring of western civilization – Italia! Adding that my Mother and Carlos were enthusiastic gourmands and admirers of fine wine, these trips were pretty incredible to this day inspire not only my work but my own lifestyle.

Segue to the present day – sitting here in quarantine, with more time on my hands than I have ever been accustomed to, my creative mind wandered back to those halcyon days in Italy.
Rather than be down about the whole COVID-19 situation, I decided to have fun and to share some little sketches with my friends, thinking that maybe I could help to trigger some pleasant memories in them too.

Well, I must say the response has been everything I wished for and more! I have received so many nice responses, including more than a few architect’s anecdotes about being young and traveling through Italy and discovering those magical places for the first time. Encouraged by this I decided to continue drawing and sending out a sketch a week until we were free from this pandemic.

What is it about Italy? From the 18th century British gentlemen of means marveling at the archaeological finds; to current day, the panoply of natural and man-made enchantments continue to draw people world over and to enrich us all with a universal appreciation for some of the best art and architecture ever to have been dreamed and created.

Regarding the drawings themselves, having recently uncovered some of Carlos Diniz’s early ink work (a subject for another journal,) I became intrigued with the idea creating my Italy drawings using the old crosshatching techniques and thought to try my hand at ink media.

Carlos was a master of crosshatching; in my opinion, unequaled by many artists in this or any other age. Densely crosshatched drawing was once a staple of the CDA repertoire, but in my iteration of the studio, we phased it out as a technique when we made the transition to watercolor media. Rediscovering this beautiful technique and reinvigorating my love of this beautiful country has not only kept me busy, but has helped me reconnect with old friends, colleagues and other lovers of art. Following are a few of the drawings – a true example of taking life’s lemons and making lemonade. I hope you enjoy them!


This is a great view from the upper terrace of the Hotel Raphael showing the cityscape from St. Peters to Castle St. Angelo.


Carlos Diniz was a huge Palladio fan, and while with him I visited the churches in Venice and the Teatro Olympica in Vicenza, I never got to see any of the Villas in person.  This stately view of the archetypal villa captures Palladio’s elegant palazzo nicely, so I chose it for the second entry on the Architectural Tour.


Looking from the back of the villa, one has a lovely view of the entry drive flanked by statuary and a small church beyond. The site on a small hill was chosen for its 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside.


This is a well-known view of the cathedral from the Mangia Tower.  When I visited Sienna and experienced its medieval Palio di Siena horse race, the city was ablaze in pageantry for the physically brutal contest.  Everything about Italy’s turbulent history was on full display.

The cathedral is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen – inside and out, and from the adjacent high walls one could see for miles.  I found this composition appealing for its chaotic foreground buildings juxtaposed to the refined church edifice and with the soft Umbrian hills beyond.

To see more drawings of Italy, follow me on INSTAGRAM.

Porta Della Carta


After completing a painting of The Pantheon last year, I was looking around for another building to render for a series on Italian architecture.  I came across an image of the Porta Della Carta, a Gothic glory that offered a significant challenge.  I found it interesting as a subject because of the intricacy of the design, but also in that it had the unenviable distinction of being situated between the San Marcos Basilica and the Doge Palace, a mere portal amongst giants.

With its abundant history as a subject for artists from Canaletto to Turner and beyond, it was the paintings of my step-father, Carlos Diniz, that initially got me thinking about the possibilities of depicting Italian architecture. I wondered if I could find my own expression of such well-trodden tourist destinations.

In my approach, I thought added light so you can see what lay behind the majestic doors and along the loggia. In place of contemporary figures, I had the idea of adding a more colorful scene with a group of Comedia Della Arte characters during Carnival: A masked, dancing scallywag wooing the ladies with a mandocello.

The torrential flooding of Venice this year was terribly distressing, and this painting suddenly took on an added significance. When I think if the treasure chest of art and architecture that this city is, the exquisite work of Bellini, Titian and Tintoretto, the Gothic, Palladian, Rococo and Baroque structures, the exquisite tile and décor of the churches and cathedrals, and the art, writing and film that has been inspired by this city and its jewels I cannot imagine the loss to humankind it would be if it were allowed to be washed away by the rising ocean.

How do we deal with the inevitable decline of these architectural splendors as the planet continues to wreak havoc? It certainly gives one pause. I think that as people enlightened and educated in art, architecture and design, the mantle falls to us to help save this important part of human heritage by innovation in design and engineering, by speaking out on the importance of this city for all and of course, by donating and encouraging others to donate to the preservation of it for future generations. There is a great foundation working to do this, and their name says it all: SAVE VENICE.

As 2019 comes to a close, I am happy to still be creating and having the opportunity to help my clients to visualize their projects in the most aesthetic way possible. We have had some great commissions this year and I am grateful to be a part of the architectural and development teams that are committed to doing great work.

A little historical background on Porta Della Carta:

In 1438–1442, Giovanni Bon and Bartolomeo Bon built and adorned the Porta Della Carta, which served as the ceremonial entrance to the Doge Palace. The name of the gateway (translated as the Paper Portal) probably derives either from the fact that this was the area where public scribes set up their desks, or from the nearby location of the archives of state documents. This gate, located between the Basilica and the Doges Palace is flanked by Gothic pinnacles, with two figures of the Virtues per side (Fortress, Prudence, Hope and Charity).

The gateway is crowned by a bust of Mark the Evangelist over which rises a statue of Justice with her traditional symbols of sword and scales. In the space above the cornice, there is a sculptural portrait of the Doge Francesco Foscari kneeling before the winged Lion of Saint Mark, symbol of Venice. At the lower left corner of the frame, hugging the basilica’s poly-chrome marble-clad walls, you can see the Four Tetrarchs. The porphyry sculpture represents four Roman rulers and dates to around 300 A.D. It is believed to have been brought to Venice from Constantinople around 1204.

Un-Arrested Development

The process of a large-scale development is a complicated one. It involves tremendous effort and work by all involved and can easily bog down in anything from design disputes to neighborhood opposition to mere bureaucracy.

Having the project represented by renderings that are geared toward gaining approval is vital to keep things moving.

As experienced architectural visualizers, we understand what can influence these decisions and work with your team to ensure the best views of your proposal are depicted.  In meeting with development and architectural teams, we listen to the problems and work out views that will resolve them. We understand the visual cues that will create agreement.

We are an art firm, but we know that the images we produce are the key to marketing. We have the experience to know what people want and how to create a space that people want to be in.

Here are examples of three projects that were in various stage of impasse. We came into the team and worked out exactly what need to be seen to handle it. As a result, all of these major developments are now in progress.

Contact us for your next real estate development, redevelopment or urban renewal plan and let us help you get it moving.

100 West Walnut, Pasadena, California – Lincoln Property Company

“Your great work helped get us here.” Rob Kane, Executive VP, Lincoln Property Co.


Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Baldwin Hills California – Capri Capital Partners

“A great part of our story.  It makes a huge difference.”  – Lindsey Kozberg, Principal, Park Valayos LLP


Article about Baldwin Hills on CurbedLA , Article about Baldwin Hills on Urbanize

Westfield Promenade, Tarzana, CA – Westfield

“Ian Espinoza Associates has been an important extension of the Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield team.  Ian’s ability to grasp our vision and then produce beautifully rendered illustrations is second to none.  Over many years, this has proven to be instrumental in helping the public and key decision makers visualize & support the project.”
–  Larry Green – Executive Vice President, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield