Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seen at Starbucks


There's a very nice atmosphere at one of my local Starbuckses where the neighborhood comes to sit and sip. My urban sketchery records the things you see at Starbucks. Christmas decorations. An easily recognizable, you could even call it "iconic" covered cup of coffee. A coffee maker, a pile of bananas, and stacks of cups. The elegantly dressed gent with his book is a regular there, he sits and studies economics, reading a real paper book. For me, one espresso = one page of drawing.  

Pitt technical pen black ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", December 19, 2014.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Goodbye, Sam's Farm


"Sam's Farm" was a garden shop in Fairfax County, about a mile from my house. It had a plastic greenhouse, an open display area, a shed for selling garden ceramic items and gifts, and an old cottage, even 20 years ago past its expiration date. It was seasonally appropriate throughout the year, though it closed from January to late March. In the spring they sold plants and flowers in containers, in summer and fall they sold flowers and local produce, and  in November and December they sold Christmas trees. The decrepit cottage was used to show ornamented Christmas trees and shiny stuff, and all over the property concrete and plaster garden fixtures sat like large white mushrooms in the dirt. It was a friendly piece of rurality in the city. Now it is all gone.

I knew it had to happen someday, and that someday is now. Yesterday I saw the bulldozers taking down the shed and the cottage. Combined with other properties which have recently been cleared, the strip of land will be built up with expensive town houses and single family houses. 

This is the only sketch of "Sam's Farm" I have, because it was next to a major highway and there was no place to sit for drawing. I managed to draw part of the shed while parked in their parking lot. The sign at the top says "No Trespassing." I would really like to know how the "Urban Sketchers" manage to find a place in their cities to do their sketch work.

Brown ink, water-based markers, and colored pencils on sketchbook page, from my lavishly illustrated 1998 journal. April 12, 1998. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Old Virginia Christmas


Ten years ago I made a winter journey down the Shenandoah Valley to visit friends and see the beautiful countryside off-season. One day I stayed at the house of one of my friends' parents. At that point the lady of the house had passed away and her husband maintained it himself. The house was full of handmade treasures, and was decorated for the Christmas season with home-made paintings and crafts. In the parlor and dining room, there was an old black iron stove which once had provided heat but was now decommissioned. On top of the old stove was a miniature artificial Christmas tree just like the one I have displayed for more than 25 years in my own home.

I am told that this family actually behaved decently during the holidays. From what I remember of them, I believe it. Imagine a warm and welcoming Christmas where commercialized illusions and cliche's were transcended by reality. The people are gone and the house is in other hands now, but I remember their hospitality with this little drawing which I did on site many winters ago.

Brown ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, 5" x 9", December 15, 2004.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dot Doodle


When you've got a nice set of grayscale Copic markers, you might as well use 'em. So here's a retro doodle made from dots and lines and shading. I put a bunch of dots on the page and connected them with lines in various ways. Then I took a ruler to it (yes, a ruler) and one of my antique plastic curve rulers. Invited the drawing into Photoshop and added some gradated tones and there you go. Forgettable I suppose, but it is in my sketchbook journal forever now, as long as "forever" lasts. 

My use of alcohol based markers such as Copics in my sketchbook journal has proven to be not so artistic, because the dye from the markers sinks through the paper and shows up on the other side, making a messy view when you turn the page. 2015's sketchbook journal will be less ambitious, and if I use color it will be colored pencil similar to my winery drawings. Not sure I will use color, as I like the look of my ink line drawings. So artsy, you know.

Markers on sketchbook page, 7" x 5", December 17, 2014.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Astral Pavilions


Here's another visionary landscape with dream architecture. This is only somewhat inspired by esoteric literature. My inspiration here is the fantastic architecture of Renaissance and early modern stage sets. These Baroque designs were used in theater, opera, and elaborate entertainments staged by royalty or nobility to impress guests and show off the king's power. Some of this fantasy architecture featured conical pavilions or temples which were covered with elaborate ornament and flaming points of light.

Many of the visionary 19th and 20th century texts used the seven spectrum colors as a theme so that angelic stations or temples of sacred flames appeared in these rainbow colors. In my visionary landscape, there are seven temples in the complex, each of them in one of the traditional colors. The largest one here is the Temple of the Violet Ray, and further in the distance you see the Light Blue and the Green Ray Temples. If you were in this scene, the other colored temples would be behind you. All of this is visible to the dreamer, dressed in a black and purple robe, who appears under a little gazebo to the right. I designed all the ground architecture which is meant to guide astral pilgrims along the pathways to and from the temples. Note the half-moon which is unusual in lunar representations. 

I have not shown this before on the By-Product because my photo of this piece was poor. This is the best image I could get, and some of it is still out of focus. However, it's pretty, and it's one of my favorite of my "astral world" or "New Age" paintings. 

"Astral Pavilions" is acrylic on illustration board (with airbrush), 25" x 20", August 2001. Click on the image to sort of get a better view.

Dreamy colors and rainbow rays…painted in August 2001. The very next month, things went to hell. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Celestial City in the Sun


I collect visionary texts, as you may remember. These are narratives, usually by a female mystic, of journeys to other worlds where she meets beings from heavenly dimensions. There is almost always a spiritual, esoteric Christian element to these narratives. And they are presented not as fantasy writing but as truth experienced by the seer.

These fantastic (if not fantasy) narratives often contain lavish descriptions of cities, fashions, transportation, and architecture, which inspire me as an illustrator. This image you see comes from just such a text. The story is called "My Visit to the Sun" and it is by Phoebe Marie Holmes. It was first published in 1933, which is quite late for this kind of writing as these texts were most popular in the later 1800s and early 1900s. Interestingly, there are some visionary texts currently produced in the fundamentalist Christian communities, where they are presented as true visions of heaven and hell. But the esoteric element is absent.

This is not the sun of the scientists, of course, not a giant ball of glowing gas. Phoebe's sun world is another dimension where the solar sphere is hollow and populated by countless angelic and spirit beings who live in huge vertical, multi-level cities set in parklands freshened by fountains of light energy. This image illustrates one of those cities. The architecture is inspired by Indian temples. The golden tint of the whole piece is meant to evoke the yellow of sunlight. 

Phoebe's book, a rare edition, was reprinted by an esoteric reprint house many years ago and even the reprint is a rarity now. I still have my copy though I don't know where it is in my cluttered library. If I find it I might be inspired to go solar again.

"The Celestial City in the Sun" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 14", November 1996. Click on the pic for larger view.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Miss December


As the producer of "Art By-Products" I feel the obligation to bring all five of you loyal readers quality fresh product at least half the time. I have not been doing that recently because I've had an unpleasant cold that kept me from exerting the energy to make even little pictures. I'm sure you don't mind vintage art from me but there is eventually a limited supply of it and I will run out of it, and then what will I do to entertain you? So as my cold has gotten a bit better (cough, hack, sniff) I managed to draw a girl. I haven't drawn a human figure or face for months and since I'm about to end my 2014 sketchbook and move to 2015, I'd better draw one. She's a bit of a pin-up but much simpler. I found the model in "Art Models 5," that extra helpful series of photo model books made for artists like me who don't have easy access to life drawing sessions.

Miss December is ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/8" x 3 1/2", December 14, 2014.