Tuesday, September 2, 2014

18th century space opera girl hero


In March of 2013 I posted a book cover I painted for a "space opera" adventure story by a historian and writer named Linda Grant dePauw. My essay for that was quite long and rather than having me repeat it, you can view it here. DePauw imagined a spacefaring future in which spaceships were made out of some kind of (magical) wood, and the culture and warfare was based on 18th century models. But unlike those days, dePauw's society was completely gender-equal and women served in all ranks, from servant to Captain.

This young lady, whose name is Maggie Steele, was an officer aboard one of these ships when an alien attack killed off all the higher-ranking officers, leaving her in charge of the entire ship. DePauw commissioned not only a book cover but lots of concept and character art. Maggie looks good enough but I have always thought that her pants are too tight and must be quite uncomfortable. 

Watercolor and ink on illustration board, 8" x 10", spring 1990.

Sharp-nosed readers may notice that I missed a day blogging here (September 1). Eventually I will run out of vintage art to post after all these years, and I can't always turn out a new sketch every day. I'll have to make a decision about whether to keep it up every day or go to a different schedule. If I don't post every day, I run the risk of getting lazy and not posting at all. If any one of you has an opinion on this highly important and critical matter, you're welcome to comment.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Young Grapevines at Winding Road


I visited "Winding Road Cellars" again on Saturday and did this drawing of one of their new vineyards. The Winding Road folks have optimistically planted acres of new grapevines which will not bear wine-able grapes for 5 years. Some of these grape saplings will not survive, whether killed by harsh weather or eaten by deer or other animals. I hope to document the progress of this new vineyard in sketches. Meanwhile, Winding Road Cellars continues to sell copies of my "Earthly Paradise" winery art book, and I delivered more of them to the vineyard today.

You don't see too many artistic landscapes in overcast light. Especially in August when the trees and grasses have a lot of yellow color, cloudy light either turns green tree colors to a muddy brown or a faded grey. During my drawing session, the clouds thinned and revealed a few sunbeams, which lit up the grassy slope with a brilliant yellow-green that I've tried to capture here.

Colored pencil on sketchbook page, 6" x 5", August 30, 2014.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Vonage at Tysons Mall


"Vonage" is an internet telephone service that makes it easier and cheaper for people to call their families and friends overseas. I drew this Vonage sales booth while I sat in the mall sipping my iced coffee. Friday afternoon and evening is a big crowd scene at the mall and I enjoyed seeing people from every country on earth wandering around shopping and socializing. There were many Arabs, especially women in Islamic hijab and richly embellished garb from their own nations. Whole families shopped together, and there were plenty of children in this international gathering. I have never seen so many Middle Eastern people in this mall in the suburbs of Washington, DC. They all seemed very well off. I am guessing that these are the very affluent elite of various Middle Eastern places who have gathered up their riches and fled the turmoil in their area to stay in America safely. A similar movement brought millions of the Iranian upper class and elite to America in 1979 and 1980 when the Shah was deposed in the revolution. Most of these Iranians never went back home, and settled in the USA and raised the next generation in exile. I wonder whether these new emigrants will ever get home again. At least they can call home with Vonage.

Sociology and international politics aside, I am pleased with my mall drawing and since orange is my favorite color and also the theme color of Vonage, I've added an accent area.

Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", color added in Photoshop, August 29, 2014.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Olde" Lantern


In order to keep my drawing skills happening and provide you with the best art and art by-products, I must find interesting things to draw. Since I don't find a parking lot full of cars very interesting, I must turn to things I find inside my dwelling, the way the "Sustainably Creative" artist Michael Nobbs does. Fortunately I have all sorts of interesting things in my home, which other people might call "clutter." This imitation railroad lantern is one of them. It sits on my windowsill and is silver in color. I love these railroad lanterns and have two more, one in red and one in green, in honor of the comic book superhero "Green Lantern." They are one of my ways of reminding myself of the historical industrial and rural world outside the new city where I live. The lanterns, though, are all made in China.

This one, branded as the "Olde Brooklyn Lantern," was widely marketed on television and my father, in his later days, bought a lot of them because the TV offered bargains on them that he couldn't resist. The "bargains" turned out to include a lot of defective Brooklyn Lanterns that would not light up. This one I have here is one of the ones that worked. Unlike the traditional kerosene and wick lantern, this one works on batteries and LED mini-bulbs and emits a pale purplish light. Despite its mainly decorative quality, it is not completely useless. When I was stranded in a hotel in New Jersey without electric power or lights during Hurricane Sandy, my Brooklyn Lantern was quite useful to light my way around the room.

Pitt technical pen black ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 6", August 28, 2014.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Morgaine or Elric


This picture could be either C.J. Cherryh's Morgaine or Michael Moorcock's Elric, though I meant it to be Morgaine. Just a little photoshoppery on the sword and on the character's chest and you'd get Elric. The character is riding the "Universal Horse" (that is, no matter what fantasy world you're on, the horses are all standard Earth species equines.) In fact everything in this picture can be found as a cliche on the wonderful website "tvtropes.org" which enumerates "Mystical White Hair" and "Automaton Horse," not to mention "Magical Sword" which probably covers everything.

"Morgaine at Exiles' Gate" is watercolor on illustration board, 8" x 11", November 1989. Rescued from a bad photograph by the magic of Photoshop. Klik for a larger view.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oley Valley, PA, August 2006


Once upon a time, not even 10 years ago, I had more money at my disposal and was able to take time off from work to travel around the countryside drawing things. These two colored pencil drawings come from that pre-Crash era, when I was touring through eastern and central Pennsylvania in Amish country. The location is Oley Valley, Pennsylvania, which appeared in a poem by modernist 20th century American poet Wallace Stevens, who was born and raised there and had strong historical family ties to that region.

"One of the limits of reality
Presents itself in Oley when the hay,
Baked through long days, is piled in mows…"

(From "Credences of Summer," part IV)

Stevens is one of my favorite poets, despite his expectation that the reader will be as sophisticated and well-informed as he is in order to get the density of references he writes about. He also writes from a position of social privilege which is hard to take in the politically edged culture of our current time. 

Literary Criticism aside, these are the colored pencil landscape studies which morphed into my winery drawings a couple of years later, when I traded traveling in other U.S. states to visiting wineries in Virginia. 

Colored pencil on sketchbook page, 8 1/2" x 11", August 14, 2006. Some Photoshop restoration in the sky area. Cliquez for larger view.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Magical Amazon


Sometime back in the sultry August of 1983 I got two fan friends of mine to pose for me, an athletic, well-endowed woman and her skinny boyfriend. They dressed in minimal attire and posed in my Cambridge, Massachusetts back yard. I paid them money and possibly a bit of art as well. They took just the kind of action poses I wanted for my fantasy pictures. She had the required red hair and large chest and though she was not trained or a "real" fighter she could wield her props in an entertaining fantasy way. This is the origin of the picture for today, "Magical Amazon." There is no story to this piece, only a figure study with some nice colors and special effects. It's one of my better figure pieces, which perhaps is not saying much but she looks better than my usual awkward attempts. Somewhere in my crammed studio are the photos I took of this helpful couple. I wonder where they are now. 

"Magical Amazon" is acrylic on illustration board, 12" x 16", August 1983. It was shown, and sold, at the World Science Fiction Convention in Baltimore, Md. later that month. Click for larger view.