Not everyone appreciates his work. Rinaldo, a conceptual artist, mocks Alexander’s bourgeois love of beauty, believing Alexander’s success proves that the universe is chaotic and absurd. Determined to undermine, humiliate and ultimately destroy his rival, he defaces Alex’s painting.
Alexander brushes off the attack, but soon he has a frightening vision of misshapen, human-like creatures. These trolls start appearing in his art, and he is beset by questions. Who are these ugly beings? Has he lost both his light and his art?
The creatures lead Alexander to journey from London to Venice and from Toronto to New York as he seeks to understand their meaning. He meets many people, each with a story to tell. Meanwhile, Rinaldo waits in New York City, intent on settling a score in The Drawing Lesson.