Friday, February 27, 2015

Weebly Wobbly

A note to my devoted readers: No By-Product this weekend because I am taking my art to a show nearby, where I will be displaying and hopefully selling my work at a dealer's table. Meanwhile, it's finally here, my new portfolio website for art. I assembled it using the prefab site building elements from "Weebly," where they provide the basics and you add the content. There is more to be installed but here is my site as it is for now. You are invited to take a look and comment if you wish.

I'll be back in a couple of days. Many thanks.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


These steampunkish forms were taken from yet more of the brilliant photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher. They were a German couple who devoted their photographic careers to documenting the old heavy industries of Europe and North America. The structures in the drawing are mine-heads, known as pit-heads in England where these were. The pit-head is where you pull things up from or let things down into the coal mine, using pulleys, rails, and big turning wheels. I love the intricacy of the iron openwork. There is so much visually interesting material in these works to, uh, mine.

Sepia brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4 1/2", February 26, 2015.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tennessee Watercolor

When it comes to on-site sketching, itself a prized technique among artists, on-site watercoloring is the gold standard. The art lovers and patrons and fellow artists know you are a true artist because you can do this difficult medium outdoors with hardly any equipment but your water jar, paints and paper and a little easel. I have only been able to achieve outdoor watercolor a few times and this one here is one of my best efforts in the medium. I have done countless on-site sketches using ink and colored pencils, after all that's my favorite medium for winery drawing. But you don't see a lot of colored pencil drawings on the sketch sites I frequent.

I didn't have a little easel but I had a fold-out camping table which was my portable studio (big and clunky, not chic tiny easel) and I had plenty of room to set up my art stuff on it. The junk-strewn porch here (NOT junk, antiques! see the sign?) was a landmark on Nolensville Pike, near Nashville, Tennessee. Inside were more old things and a large woodworking shop where the owner, "Marvin," created lathe-turned banisters and other furniture. The red flag on the porch eave is the state flag of Tennessee. Two good friends of mine lived nearby and introduced me to Marvin and his cat.

The shop is long gone though it was memorialized in many publications. I think my painting here was published in a tourist magazine of that era, since I sent Marvin a copy of the art. My friends still live in Nashville but not near this place. Maybe someday I'll give on-site watercolor another try.

Marvin's shop is ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, about 6" x 7", June 25, 2003. Click for larger view.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Zen Jesus

I hesitated before deciding to show this picture on the By-Product. Some of my readers are intensely anti-Christian, and I don't want to assert my Christian faith in their presence. But this is an interesting piece of art, if only for the cultural/spiritual mashup of its concept.

It's an icon of Christ, also known as "Video Icon," designed after the traditional Orthodox icon of Christos Pantocrator, but with abstract elements and non-orthodox colors. Christ is in a black robe reminiscent of a kimono. The background is a cloudy texture of grey and blue, with a simple silver halo. The Book held open by Christ reveals a cloudless, brilliant blue sky with stars, rather than the traditional pages with a passage from the Bible. This is the book as gateway to another Universe. 

I also used a different model for the face of Christ. I was trying to portray Jesus as a Cool Guy rather than the saccharine white boy of Protestantism or the scary elongated  Mediterranean mystic of Eastern Orthodoxy. When I became Christian I chose Roman Catholicism but for a long while was attracted to Eastern Orthodoxy, and in the mid-90s I worshipped at an Eastern Rite Catholic church. But when I brought this picture to the Eastern priests they refused to bless it because it did not follow the very strict standards used in Orthodox iconography.

My spiritual life is quite different now, with influences from western esotericism and Zoroastrianism, and I haven't painted any images of Jesus Christ for a long time. That does not mean that I won't paint them, but I will do it differently.

"Christ Lord of the Universes" is acrylic on illustration board, 8" x 10", June 1984.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Uriel, Angel of Ecology

Among the traditional Four Archangels, only Uriel does not appear in the Bible. Uriel does show up in non-canonical writings that were not chosen as Biblical material. 

I portrayed Uriel as the Green Archangel of modern science, patron of Ecology. I made him/her an African in pan-African garb, because I want my angels to be global. He/she is holding a bundle of reeds and grains, plants essential to human life on Earth. The wings
are made of green leaves. In the background is hills and an afternoon rainstorm with rainbow. The border is derived from Art Deco and African patterns.

Uriel is acrylic on hardboard, 11" x 14", August 1996.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Internet Driver's Test

Back in 1993 the Internet was still a very new thing to the public and was still mainly in the hands of specialists like scientists, computer engineers and science fiction fans. I got illustration jobs through my fan connections with magazine editors and marketing people. This is one of a series I did for a long-gone magazine called "Internet World." In those days the builders of the Internet had no idea that it would take over the world and they imagined it as a place only for the educated and specialized. They speculated that you would have to take a test just to participate, just like you would take a driver's test (which I failed three times and remember with anxiety and horror). Thus the signs which appear in front of the driver with his big old monitor. I hardly remember what these signs meant, like "GREP" and "WAIS" but one or two of you readers might.

1993 was my first year on the Net. I got connected as part of the payment for one of my illustration jobs. The "access%" was what I got on the black screen before I typed in my login.This was well before the first public use of the World Wide Web. My first  internet provider was a company in Maryland called "Express Access DIGEX" and my first Internet e-mail address was Ah, the nostalgia.

"Internet Driver's Test" is watercolor and computer printout collage on illustration board, 8" x 10", December 1993.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Archangel Raphael Patron of Biotechnology

There are four major Archangels in Western angel lore. Raphael is one of them and he is known as the Angel of Healing, hence my associating him with Biotechnology. He is holding a model of the DNA molecule. The ornamentation of his coat, and the elaborate border, is filled with designs based on cells, genes, micro-organisms, and proteins. I overloaded these angel portraits with symbolism, some of it from the "standardized" 20th-century archangel protocols. Raphael is associated with the element of Air, hence the wings and the clouds. He is also connected with the primary color yellow, and the morning. I gave Raphael a "European" look, just as I made Michael Chinese, because I want my angels to be global.

Raphael is acrylic on hardboard, 11" x 14", summer 1996.