A quick "painting" in Photoshop this evening, about an hour. There's clutter in space. It's kind of like my apartment, but in seven dimensions.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Around the early 90s I did many flower pictures, especially of irises. I was new to the Washington, DC area and I was delighted by the abundance of flowers in spring there. I visited gardens and an entire farm devoted to growing big iris flowers, the kind known as "German bearded irises." I took dozens and dozens of photographs and then did studies of the flowers in all the rainbow colors they came in. I often added angelic, fairy, or other fantasy elements to my irises, and this is one of them. It's called "Iris of Angelic Air," and was painted in 1991. Watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10". These pictures were successful at fantasy convention art shows and I sold every one that I made. Like my esoteric angels, I don't do them any more, but I wouldn't refuse to do another one if I felt like it.
You (my handful of readers) may be wondering why I'm putting up so many archival pieces on "Art By-Products." Am I slacking off? No, I am working on another project which I hope to show in 2009, not on this Blog but on my "Noantri World" sub-site. I'll tell you more about this as soon as I finish it. It has to do with modern architecture, so stay tuned.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Back in the late 80s I did a lot of esoteric (not really the same as "occult") studies. I learned about Kabbalah both from the traditional Jewish perspective and from the Western Esoteric tradition that adapted the Jewish philosophy in the Renaissance and centuries afterward. One of the schools of Kabbalistic esotericism (which in no way resembles the cult-ish stuff professed by various celebrities) involved a lot of colorful mental visualization. Since I like spirituality with bright colors and good designs, this attracted me. It was not at all Jewish; it was actually 19th and early 20th century English, and most of the proponents and writers were English. One of the books I worked with was a Kabbalistic inner visualization manual called "The Book of Celestial Images," by a gent called A.C. Highfield. This book is out of print but it's available used at various online vendors. It was a treasury of images that I could put into artwork.
In those archaic days before Photoshop, I assembled graphic designs from cut paper that I glued onto an airbrushed background. The colors were provided by "Color-Aid," which some older designers remember. It is still available, as the site shows, but it is expensive. Color-Aid paper was thick and the color was added to the paper by silk-screening rather than actually coloring the paper. That made a nice flat non-reflective surface. You could use it plain or draw or paint over it. The trouble was that the surface was fragile and if you bent it, the color would flake off. Many of these compositions I did with Color-Aid have deteriorated, especially if they were stacked against each other.
This one is well-preserved and in my own collection, dated January 1987, 7" x 10". The colors were determined by visionaries who synesthetically saw the Hebrew letters not only as colors, but as parts of the human body, both male and female. Therefore the colors in this figure correspond to the letters in the name of the angel it represents, which is the "Chai Ha Kodesh" (Holy Living Creature) of Kether, the top station on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The symbol-system got quite complicated as color was stacked on top of color and Hebrew letters became emblems and elaborate scenes were built from names, symbols, and characters. After a while for me it got too much like work, so I moved away from it. I still have the books so I could return to the symbol-world if I got the inspiration.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Here's something I created in Photoshop to practice modeling and texture. It has a slightly mid-century-modernist look to it as that's what I've been paying a lot of attention to these days. The central red thing is inspired by a pepper.
In other news, I managed through persistence and patience to finally find and download the "legacy" driver for my Zen Xtra Creative Nomad MP3 player. It is now functioning again and is not yet on the scrap heap. I keep wondering what "Creative Nomad Zen" would look like. It is one of the more impossible and intriguing cultural mash-ups as a name for a commercial product. Maybe it doesn't fascinate you as much as it does me.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I received news today that a long-time friend of mine, Edouard Mesert, passed away from an unspecified illness on December 14th of 2008. I don't know how old he was, but I would guess in his late forties. He was a fellow fantasy fan as well as a devout Christian and a member of my religious group. He loved "traditional" horror characters such as vampires and werewolves, and he also loved antique cars. He once owned a Chevy from the 1970s that he called "Vlad the Impala." Edouard enjoyed fantasy costumes and would dress as an elegant vampire at conventions. He loved the vampire stories of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and the Darkover books of Marion Zimmer Bradley.
In 1995 he commissioned me to do this portrait of him, lovingly embraced by a sexy werewolf. (Watercolor on board, 9 1/2" x 11".) I enjoyed putting a "real" person into a fantasy world. Later on he and his partner Charles moved to Phoenix, Arizona, so I didn't get to see him that often, though he did make it back East in 2006 for the annual retreat of my religious group. He said that being with our group brought him great spiritual solace and renewal.
Now Edouard, who was so involved with the world of the undead, is now with the world of the dead, or perhaps more, the world of the imaginal, meeting his beloved characters on an equal level of reality.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Here's another one of my nametag miniatures from many years ago. I encountered the Archangel Anael during some of my esoteric studies in the late 70s. Anael (sometimes cited as "Haniel") was one of the seven main archangels who didn't get into the Bible or the other religious writings of the time. He was the angel of the planet Venus, and of things that were green and coppery (since copper rusts to a green color). He was also guardian of this time of the winter, around the Solstice and Christmas. For a while he was my personal choice for guardian angel so I did this miniature in his honor. He's holding the monogram (built from my mundane name) that I sign my artwork with. The black bar originally had the Detested Mundane Name but I have erased it and left it blank. Anael is no longer my guardian angel and has not been for a long time. I'm not sure who occupies that post now.
Watercolor and ink on thick paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4". Dated November 1981 (on the back).
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I have been knocking out the signs by the dozen during the holiday season. On Christmas Eve (Wednesday) I did four signs, about one every hour, for "bargain bubbly." These are inexpensive sparkling wines that you can buy a lot of to pass around at New Year's. The signboards are about 2 1/2 feet square, and the writing is done in opaque acrylic markers on Masonite painted with black "chalkboard" spray paint. I think that Trader Joe's must keep Rust-Oleum in business by using far more chalkboard paint than would be called for in "normal" uses such as classrooms or kids' rooms. I think about how much of the stuff we use when I have to go get more. Our markers are also "re-purposed" (there's another good 2000s buzzword for you). They are originally marketed to crafters who like decorating wooden knicknacks. When I order new supplies I wonder what the vendor (a craft supply place called "Woodcrafter.com") thinks we do with all the dozens of markers we buy. I helpfully added on one order that we were signmakers, just to keep things from being too unnatural.
Oh by the way, Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy Solstice and Chanukah too.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Here we are again in the world of Samuel R. Delany's DHALGREN. This is inspired by a scene in this nightmarish book where a giant orange sun unexpectedly rises over the destroyed city, terrifying the inhabitants, and then just as oddly disappears. Done in Photoshop.
The fantasy art world is full of destroyed and "post-apocalyptic" cities; Delany was not the first to imagine one but he was one of the more influential. I could do lots of DHALGREN-inspired illustrations if I were not stopped. I have a fondness for images of urban destruction and abandonment, and so do lots of other people; the Web is loaded with sites depicting urban decay. It's a cliche by now, so the challenge is to make it look interesting.
As an artist I've tended to stay away from "dark" subject matter and concentrate on clear colors, upbeat themes, and heroic or pretty characters. Even my abstractions are designed to have a kind of space-age uplift to them. I'm trying to be nice and positive here, but sometimes I would like to explore the darker regions of the imaginal world. I wonder whether that would corrupt me and turn me into one of those nasty little people who make endless pictures of skulls and squids and zombies and things with enormous teeth. Is there any value to such exploration? Only the pixels will tell.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Here's my newest sign for Trader Joe's sparkling fruit and berry sodas. The numbers are big because that's what their sign marketing standards insist on. I'm trying a bit of new graphic design for this one, at least on the border and the top half. We'll be ringing in the new year of 1964, and after the terrible events of 1963, we can all use a bit of optimism and hope. We'll be sending more astronauts into space, and this summer the New York World's Fair will open! I hope I can go see the "Futurama" which will feature the city as it will be in 2000!...what? it's 2008? Almost 2009? What happened? Where's the future? Is this it?
Monday, December 22, 2008
Dhalgren, a book first published in 1975 by the avant-garde science fiction author Samuel L. Delany, is often considered unreadable. That's why I decided to read it in 1994, all the way through, to see why it was so controversial. I managed to get through the whole book and it was quite memorable, though definitely not inspiring or uplifting. I did some small illustrations from it at the time and am still considering doing more of them, especially in digital form. This image above shows the protagonist, a mentally addled young man who wanders around the destroyed city wearing only one shoe (a fetishistic touch that Delany repeats in other books).
Ink, pencils, and gouache on grey paper, 11" x 8 1/2", 1994. It was quite a job to recover the original colors from the faded slide, and I had to re-color the figure in Photoshop. Every day I struggle with obsolete media which are on the edge of fading into destruction. For instance, I have so far failed to re-activate the driver software and contact for an MP3 music player ("Creative Nomad Zen Xtra") which I acquired in 2004. As of now, it's a hunk of unusable junk, not worth the effort to work on. What cherished artifact or image will be next on the media trash heap?
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Sketchers are always drawing the customers drinking coffee at Starbucks (and other coffee houses) but not too many depict the people who make it possible, namely the baristas. If you go to a coffee house often, you will make friends with the people who work there, not only the ones who prepare the coffee but the ones who clean up the place and work in the back doing accounts, inventory, etc. I like to draw pictures of these people.
This guy in the green apron has worked at my regular Starbucks for more than 5 years. He also used to work at Trader Joe's. In October 2003, he told me that Trader Joe's was hiring artists, and that I should go show some of the work I had done for Starbucks to the Trader Joe's people. The rest was history, at least for me. Now I've been at TrJ's more than 5 years. Starbucks people work very hard and they deserve "venti" cups of respect.
In the mid-80s, not only was I drawing pictures of Cambridge houses and New England coastal amusement parks, I was doing a lot of "fan art" for small-circulation magazines. These were independently published with editions of no more than 100, and usually much less than that. These "fanzines" contained stories and illustrations about characters and scenes borrowed from an author's imaginary world. Almost all of my illustrations for these publications were unpaid, though at some points the editor managed to pay me a few dollars for my efforts. I received a complimentary copy of anything my art appeared in. Printed paper fanzines have all but disappeared, as the whole fanzine thing has now migrated online.
Darkover, the world of the red sun, had more than one fanzine. I did art for many of them, and this little sketch is a piece of "zine" art. I imagined the villages of Darkover to be these Renaissance European, stone and stucco affairs, with cobbled streets, creaky carts, and picturesque signs for the illiterate inhabitants. In that character, I drew Darkover art as if it were woodcuts or early printed illustrations. I had no idea that I'd be scanning them into digital form. This little sketch, 3" x 5", dates from 1984.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I'm doing concept sketches (in Adobe Illustrator) for re-decorating my Trader Joe's. This storewide re-do will start after the holiday busy-ness is over, when we have some time to do big projects. The style I've chosen is known by many names, such as "Googie" in the West, "doo-wop" in New Jersey, and also "Populuxe" or "Streamlined." It was popular in the late 50s and early to mid-60s, along with cars adorned with fins and chrome, shiny diners, and drive-in movies. This iconic style brings a playful, colorful look to....
...Did I just say "iconic?" Good grief! I've proved my own point! What point? That if you read any article written this year that is longer than two paragraphs, you will find the word "iconic" used somewhere. All right, not in an article about nuclear physics (the "iconic" main building at Fermilab) or classical music (the "iconic" Herbert Von Karajan) and I am no statistician. But play along. Pick any article written for a popular print medium and see how long it takes for the writer to use "iconic." Every time you see the word "iconic," take a drink. You'll be merry and bright in no time.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
This drawing dates from those distant days of my life in the mid-80s when I was doing sketches of my Cambridge neighborhood and the shabby but evocative amusement parks of the Massachusetts coast. This one is from Nantasket Beach on the shore south of Boston. There used to be an amusement park named "Paragon Park" there, and it had a famous wooden roller coaster. The park is no more, but the coaster lives on as "The Wild One" at Six Flags in Mitchellville, Maryland. (Blogger's note about amusement park art: The "Himalaya" ride I depicted and posted in the December 3rd entry here was at Paragon Park, not Salisbury Beach as I mistakenly stated.)
Paragon Park was a traditional amusement park, a conglomeration of private entertainments, motels, rides, attractions, and eateries rather than an "integrated" theme park. One of the attractions was a nightclub, bar, and eatery called "Mr. Nick's Eudemon Lounge." Mr. Nick was Greek, and "Eudemon" means "Happy" in modern Greek. The word comes from the ancient Greek eudaimon, where "eu" means "good, or happy" and "daimon" means "god" or "spirit," hence "good spirit." The club had a sign out front that depicted a cute red devil with a pitchfork and a motto that said something like "Oh, You Demon, you!" It was one of the few places at Paragon Park that stayed open all year round.
It's gone forever, and has been for more than twenty years. This drawing depicts the back of the Eudemon Lounge as well as the other buildings near it. These are all gone, razed to make way for condominiums.
I did this drawing in grey ink, something I used back then to give a pencil-like quality to an ink drawing. I don't use grey ink any more because it's hard to scan and reproduce. The original drawing is faded, just like the places it depicts. In my memory I can still smell the greasy breaded fish frying in the beachside restaurants, though it is now perpetually off season at Paragon Park.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I was still new to the Northern Virginia area when I did this piece. My notes say that I did it in the one-room apartment I had in Arlington, which I only occupied for one year (1988-1989). The piece is called "Lovesick in Atlantis," and is an illustration from one of "Darkover" author Marion Zimmer Bradley's romance/fantasy stories set in legendary Atlantis. The heroine still has red hair, of course. Architecturally clever people will recognize the setting I used: it's the pool and colonnade at "San Simeon," the palace that William Randolph Hearst built near Santa Barbara, California.
The painting is 8" x 10", and is painted in gouache (opaque watercolor) on illustration board, in May 1989. I was experimenting with gouache at that time, and soon abandoned it for acrylic, which is much more durable. It was bought by a collector soon after it was painted, and it has probably disappeared forever by now.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I have been doing image research on the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, ostensibly to gather examples for a "vintage" graphics look for my Trader Joe's work. But I am also re-living my own memories of that time, when I was eleven years old. I went to the 1964 New York World's Fair with my parents and I vividly remember it. I love World's Fairs, along with theme parks like Disney World's "Epcot Center" which closely resemble them. These are some of the only places where fantasy architecture can be built that ordinary people see and enjoy and actually walk through. World's Fairs and theme parks are full of color and domes and swooping lines and cheerful visions of the future (which we no longer have). And you can get cool stuff. Somewhere buried in the clutter of my old parents' house are some collectibles from the '64 World's Fair. I currently have a souvenir highball glass (value unknown) from the Fair depicting the "Hall of Science."
The drawing above is a sketch from an old photo of the Johnson's Wax pavilion and the "Golden Rondelle" theater. The Golden Rondelle, somewhat re-designed and without the arched canopy, was moved to the Johnson's Wax corporate headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin (the headquarters with the famous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings) and is still in use as an auditorium and film theater.
Back in 1964: I also vividly remember that when my parents decided not to go back to the fair, and thus I would not see it again, I pitched a terrible fit of anger and tears that lasted for hours. If something like that fair existed now (at least somewhere in the USA) I would definitely try to go. I visited Epcot Center in 1998, and it was almost as good, so maybe I will try to get back to Florida.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Here's another one of my architectural detail sketches, done in Cambridge in the mid-80s. This one's about 5 inches square. I would use tiny scraps of illustration board left over from cutting the pieces for larger artwork. I sketched on site using a Rapidograph pen filled with brown ink. I don't use Rapidograph much any more, since they were so hard to maintain. Faber-Castell's "Pitt" pens are my sketcher of choice. As with the other drawings, I would note the colors with water-soluble colored pencils, then go home and add watercolor to it.
In other news, By-Product readers are now invited to visit the revamped and modernized Pyracantha main website at http://www.pyracantha.com. There is art to see, and the companion art blog to this one, "Quality Art Product." There is also a music section. Other sections are still in development. Profuse thanks to my Webmistress for her patience and skill.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I did the design today for the only Starbucks daring enough to allow me to do their coffee ad board. (Starbucks official policy is that only the actual employees can do designs on the board.) Instead of the usual Christmas malarkey, I skipped over to the New Year and the Inauguration, which is going to be a huge thing here in the DC area. Raise a Starbucks espresso truffle to the New Year and hope for the best! I suspect however that Year 2009 will bring some heavy life changes for me regarding my family.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Now, back to current work. As the holiday season progresses we signmakers are being asked to make louder, brighter, and bigger signs. It's dark and cold outside and shoppers are tired and stressed. The manager asks me to make signs that "scream." He wants more and more intensity.
This is a temporary matter. After the holiday season we are planning to do a whole new look of bright, cheerful, and focused signage. Meanwhile, I designed this gift card sign with shiny metallic papers and big block letters, in the hope that people will realize that a Trader Joe's gift card is a really good idea for those people who already have loads of cluttery stuff and should get consumable presents that disappear. It's good for people like co-workers whose preferences you might not know. You can send a gift card through the mail, too. It works out quite well, as long as the recipient lives near a Trader Joe's. If they don't, then a selection of TJ's dry goodies and sweets makes an excellent "care package." (This ad was not paid for by Trader Joe's, though I suppose in essence it was, since they pay me.)
Friday, December 12, 2008
In my fannish days when I went to a lot of science fiction conventions, it was popular to wear an artistic namebadge as well as your "official" convention nametag. I was commissioned to do many of these for friends, and I also did a number of them for myself. They are all 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/4 inches, designed to fit into a plastic cardholder fastened to your clothing (or costume) by a pin in the back. Mine were mostly watercolor and gouache on thick paper. The design always had to have room for a frame where the name would go. This one has my Detested Mundane Name on it, since I had not yet found another name to go by. I have removed the Detested Mundane Name with the miracle of Photoshop, leaving only the background color of the original lettering. The little card was somewhat worn since not only had it been used at a convention but it had been stuck to the inside of a portfolio filled with other artwork which rubbed against it. So I have again used technical magic to restore the freshness of this image, which was done in 1977. Its title is "Malachite Universe," and you can see the textures of malachite semi-precious stone in the design. See, even then I was working with geometric abstraction just as I do now, but only in miniatures. In those days I was much more involved with Green than with Orange, and I did a lot of images in variations of that color. I hardly ever use green in a painting nowadays, unless it's for landscaping.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This is one of my favorite architectural studies of houses in Cambridge, Mass. It dates from the mid-'80s. I drew it on site though as usual I filled in the colors from my notes back in the studio. Life was different then. I could sit on my folding stool on the sidewalk in an urban area doing a drawing and no one would bother me. I've only tried it in Falls Church a few times. It's easiest if I can sit in my car and draw. I haven't done an outdoor drawing in a while because it got cold.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
As Corelli's fantasy tale ARDATH continues, "Theos," our modern poet-hero from 1889, transported back five thousand years to the fabulous decadent city of Al-Kyris, meets a terrifying yet totally seductive character. She is Lysia, the young and needless to say gorgeous Priestess of the Sun and the Snakes. She is introduced wearing a full robe of gold lame, while riding on her ornate river barge. But most of the time she wears almost nothing but dazzling jewelry.
Theos is smitten, and must pursue her, though he is also in love with the Poet Laureate Sah-Luma. Sah-Luma has a bit of a thing for Lysia, too. Bisexual Love Triangle, 1889 style! To complicate matters, Lysia is having a forbidden affair with the King of the realm, even though a prophecy states: "When the Snake Priestess/is the King's Mistress,/Then falls Al-Kyris!" She's a busy gal. She also has to perform a lot of ceremonies, accompanied by her animals "Nagaya" the great python and "Aizif" the tigress. And then by night, she hosts orgies in her jewel-encrusted rotunda playroom.
I am not making any of this up. Marie Corelli did, which is why she's one of my favorite fantasy authors ever. I made dozens and dozens of illustrations for this book and a couple of other Corelli titles, between the late 60s and 1994. I have not made a Corelli illustration since 1994, though I have sometimes contemplated starting up again. But why? Could I do anything inspired by Corelli that does not look like either an Alma-Tadema pastiche, or a still from D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance," or some pulp fantasy cover? Y'see, it's like this. Back in the old days, I didn't know that fantasy art was unoriginal and in bad taste. I just did it because it was fun. Sometimes I sold one or two of them, but most of them are still in my collection, and I'm scanning them now. The one you see above was painted in 1980, acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 11". It was sold at Noreascon II, the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Boston that year. This image was scanned from a dusty old color slide.
Enough of this nostalgia...I wonder what Corelli illustrations would look like in Photoshop....?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Long ago, I found a worn old fantasy book in a rummage sale at a local market. It was called ARDATH, and it was written by Marie Corelli, an author who flourished in the late 19th and early 20th century. Corelli was wildly popular during her time but also much despised for her alleged bad taste. ARDATH was a fantasy adventure, published in 1889, about a young man, a poet, whose career was going badly and who seriously doubted his own talent. He goes to visit a mysterious monk and is given instructions to proceed to the Middle East, to a place called "Ardath." When he gets there, he spends the night in a field full of mind-altering flowers, and falls into a time-traveling hallucinatory dream. In the dream, he is in a fabulous city named "Al-Kyris," and he meets all sorts of characters, including a beautiful young man who is the Poet Laureate of this ancient and long-lost realm. Our hero falls in love with the Poet Laureate, who somehow resembles him closely. This image depicts the Poet Laureate, whose name is "Sah-Luma." Sah-Luma lives a life of luxury and a fair amount of debauchery, and our modern (1889 that is) hero is drawn into that life as Sah-Luma's companion.
This little image, about 4 inches by 7.5 inches, was done in ink and watercolor in 1975. It won an award for "Best Fantasy Picture" in the Amateur class at Boskone 1978. Now, in 2008, it has been raised from dusty storage to face the harsh light of the scanner and the myriad points of pixelation.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
It's that time of year again, and we in the Washington DC area had our first snow. It was so poetic, especially the grumbling and cursing part. I continue to wallow in my old artistic efforts which I am shoving around in the dust. I haven't done anything new in more than a week, other than the restaurant decorations, which are now installed and have earned me four gourmet dinners. I did this picture above, in 1980. The hazy moon through high clouds, a sure sign of snow to come, was done with my big new art tool of the time, a Paasche airbrush. It may have been the very first time I used the airbrush on a painting. I still have the simple air compressor engine and a couple of different airbrush painting guns, and it all still works. Ink and gouache airbrush spray on dark blue paper, mounted on black matboard, about 8" x 10".
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Just in case you wanted to know what new art by-products I was making, here it is: images of Christmas trees for a local restaurant's windows. I get paid in trade: gourmet dinners at the restaurant. These are four of a set of eight I did, plus some other less decorated ones for background. Spray paint and acrylic markers on foamboard, each about 30 inches tall. They will be lined up in a row in the windows. After the Christmas season, as an article I once read put it, their brief moment of cheer will be followed by an eternity buried in a landfill.
Friday, December 5, 2008
At least when it comes to drawing architecture, I'm no better now than I was in 1976, when I did this study of Roman rooflines and an adjacent church facade. I don't know whether that gives me comfort or annoys me. If I were to go back to that same spot and draw the same subject, it would probably come out just the same. In America I don't usually have wonderful Italianate decorative cornices to draw, just porches with white railings, but I still want to draw architecture. Maybe I really should have been an architect. I would have ended up remodeling people's garages and building boring office buildings (at best) but at least I would be something respectable rather than a signmaker advertising vegetables. Architects still get respect despite the excesses of real and fictional architects. I would love to go back to Rome.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
In the mid 80s I still lived in Cambridge, but I used to go to the Washington, DC area regularly to visit friends. I also did plenty of sketching. I did this drawing on site in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. It took between 2 and 3 hours to do and is about 12" x 9". I moved to the DC area in 1988 and I used to visit the Library of Congress a lot when I was doing my research on Zoroastrianism in the mid-1990s. Now I never go there; my interests have moved elsewhere.
My project to scan my drawing and art archives is taking up the time I would otherwise use to produce new sketches (art by-products). Also I am still not completely unpacked from my Baltimore convention. I will continue to entertain you from my backlog until more fresh product is available.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
In the early and mid-80s I had a friend who was obsessed with amusement parks. She and I would go to parks on the Massachusetts coast, and while she was knocking herself silly on rides and the roller coaster, I would draw pictures. This one was done sometime in 1984 at the Salisbury Beach amusement area on Massachusetts' north shore. It depicts the "Himalaya," a carousel-like ride which also bumped you up and down. I still remember the barker calling out "And now we're gonna go around REAL FAST!"
The picture has faded a lot since I drew it, so I decided to restore the colors with Photoshop. Even so, there isn't much I can do to enhance the brown ink lines, which are now a pale orangish color. For all I know, the "Himalaya" ride still exists. There is still an amusement park at Salisbury Beach. Maybe I'll go there again someday.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I'm back from DarkoverCon which was in Timonium, Maryland just north of Baltimore. This convention has gone on for 31 years, which is in my opinion about 10 years too long. The 2008 iteration of this gathering was poorly attended, since most of the people who would come to it are forever teetering on the edge of destitution. The bad economy kept a fair number of them from coming. Those who did, except for the few young children and teens, seemed depressed and dispirited. The same people come each year, mostly, and I have watched them become more and more physically decrepit. Once upon a time, DarkoverCon was full of a kind of swashbuckling bravado, but twenty years later it had none of it; the attendees seemed especially damaged, with many of them hobbling around on canes or riding little scooters. They were disheveled and unkempt, their pseudo-medieval clothes ragged and stained; they looked like one of Brueghel's satirical paintings. I am, of course, one of this group, so perhaps I look as worn-out to them as they do to me.
I showed some of my "space abstraction" paintings, with prohibitively high "gallery" prices, since I need to save these pieces for a "mainstream" gallery show. Thus I didn't sell any of them. I got a number of positive comments for "The Photons of Pentecost." But I am just glad that picture, and the convention, is over.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I have been working on this picture for months. And years, if you count the digital sketch for it, which I did in 2006. This is a fairly large picture for me, 30" x 15". And it's on canvas, which is not my preferred surface to work on. The painting hung around my studio for more than a year, with only its pencil outlines, and I finally started painting it in the spring of this year. Then I neglected it, mostly because of technical problems. Some of this picture is airbrushed, and airbrushed acrylic paint doesn't stick to the primed canvas surface very well. Painting by hand is not much better. So this was a struggle to work on. But I finally got it done, so I can show it this weekend at DarkoverCon. My show there will not really be appropriate to a fantasy convention, because I am displaying space abstractions. But I do want at least a few people to see this work. Eventually I hope to assemble it and other space abstractions into a gallery-ready collection.
The title of this piece is "The Photons of Pentecost," which is one of those religious/physics combinations I like to explore. When I have my formal art weblog "Art Product" ready, I'll post this there and talk more about the theological speculation that inspired this picture. In the meantime, "Art By-Products" will not be updated until I return from the convention.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I am finding some old Darkover art of mine as DarkoverCon approaches. This one was done in 1979 for the frontispiece of a hardcover edition of M.Z. Bradley's works published by Gregg Press. If you notice, it is the same situation as my previously posted painting of the young thing with her lover and her angry brother. This time I did it in ink on board, 8 1/4 " x 6 1/2".
I would have loved to do a graphic novel interpretation of a Darkover tale, i.e. "Darkover Comics," but Marion Zimmer Bradley hated comics and so would not give her permission for the project.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The boss came to me about an hour and a half before I was to leave for the day and said, we need a big sign for our Panettone holiday breads right away, to advertise the successor to a display which frenzied buyers had depleted. I'm not even a panettone fan, you couldn't tempt me with the stuff. I obliged, being a pro after five years of working in retail signs, and dashed off this one in about an hour, leaving some time for putting equipment away. Done in opaque acrylic markers on a black-painted Masonite board. There may or may not be an economic depression, but people are buying gourmet food with great enthusiasm. I hesitate to say they're buying like there was no tomorrow, lest that be true.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I've been looking through my archives of old sketches and art bits from the '70s and '80s. In the '80s I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a life which now seems to me like a bohemian dream, although I was not too happy with it when I was there. I had plenty of time to wander around the neighborhood making sketches. I drew this construction site on May 1, 1986. I looked it up on Google Maps and Google street view and if you type in 244 Beacon St., Somerville, Mass. you will get an image of what this building looks like now, or at least recently when the Google PhotoVan went through there. The edge of Somerville was only a few blocks from my house. You will have to turn the picture around to get the building I drew. It appears to be empty and for sale. The wonders of modern technology never cease, but the economy goes on sinking into the abyss.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
When guys have gadgets, they refer to them not by their function (a camera, a synthesizer) but by the alphanumeric code for it (the PMC2000 or the RS4890). Women with gadgets are more likely to simply refer to it as "the scanner" or "the printer." I read this in NEW SCIENTIST magazine, so it must be true. Henceforth then, all these abstract geometric sketches that I do on the iMac in CS2 will be numbered K-(x) where (x) is the sequence number for the concept sketch. This one, K2 with a yellow background, is another essay into the 2009 color scheme. It also reminds me of Wolverine's yellow and black costume. If you don't know who Wolverine is, you probably wouldn't be reading this anyway.
I have been rooting around in my closets trying to find vintage art and also trying to reduce clutter. Vintage art is not clutter. In 1977 I was a graduate student at Harvard, studying Greek and Latin classics. I lived in a residence hall that had once been reserved for ritzy Radcliffe girls. It had a dining room, an elegant sitting room with a piano, and a garden courtyard. Upstairs, where the rooms were, was a kitchen and small dining room where we could make our own meals. This is my rendering of part of that upstairs kitchen. I did it in Pentel markers, which were the only type of colored markers I knew about back then. I used a ruler, which is unusual for my sketching. By 1979 I had left graduate school for good. It was a painful decision and I disappointed some people by leaving. But I was miserable in graduate school and the price of academic respectability became too high for me to continue.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I'll call this a "K-Speed" image, with the "K" standing for Kandinsky. It's a "speed-paint" in Photoshop which is created in a half hour or less. Preferably less. Wassily Kandinsky, with his geometric abstractions, is one of my biggest influences, at least in this style. K. would have loved Photoshop. At its best, CS2 is an endless set of Colorforms, those plastic stick-on shapes which I loved so much in my childhood.
I talked to my father on Thursday night, or rather I tried to. He wasn't making any sense. My mother says he sits at the dinner table for four hours, from around 8 PM to midnight, serving out his compulsive eating rituals. He falls asleep at the table, then wakes up and continues the food ritual. He was able to drive around by day for a couple of hours and do errands, but most of his life now seems to be spent in an incoherent twilight. My mother seemed disturbed and probably was, but there's nothing I can do to help them.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I did this picture in May of 2003. It depicts a cloister whose ceiling is a virtual representation of the galaxy, kind of like the Hogwarts ceiling in the Harry Potter books. The fountain contains liquid energy rather than water. The figure standing at the fountain contemplating it all is one of my own characters, Tanheu the techno-mage. Maybe I'll post more about him someday. Painting is acrylic watercolor on illustration board, 13" x 19". Perhaps I should apologize for posting so many archival images...but I've been majorly busy with holiday sign jobs all week.
My iMac, which bears the Byzantine name of "MACarios," is working perfectly tonight, with no huffing or puffing. (I'm Ravenclaw, not Hufflepuff, for you Rowling fans.) Perhaps it was going through some pre-programmed self-correction routine, or some sort of arcane maintenance operation. Or perhaps MACarios was annoyed that I was paying attention to my PC.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I can see lots of urban trees out my window, and every year I do sketches of them. This is a view of particularly nice autumn colors in 1996. It is done in gouache (opaque watercolor) on brown paper. I very rarely use gouache because it is so fragile and fade-able. There was similar tree color this year, but I figured, why paint an image of it, because I already painted it in 1996.
I will be having my 2004-vintage Dell laptop serviced soon. Meanwhile, my iMac, lord of all it surveys, has suddenly gotten the vapors and its fan is running full blast, for no reason that I can see. I haven't blocked its air intake. I haven't insulted it or overloaded it. Or have I? I better post this before it explodes. What? Macs are PERFECT! There must be some good reason for this behavior that this user is too stupid to understand.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
More on my ongoing saga of the possibility of buying a new PC laptop. I went to a store and took a "test drive" on the new Dell machine. I found the Windows interface to be no better or worse than the Macintosh interface I've had to get used to. I remember Windows as being a rather boring screen arrangement and the new screen is more active and colorful. They've also borrowed some features from the Mac, which I could live without. I also liked the glossy bright glass screen.
What I found slightly disturbing (NO ONE else will notice this but me) is that the bright colored laptop case, the one that would be orange (the store didn't have orange but had a vile citrus green) has a kind of weird rubbery texture to it. It is not smooth like metal. I felt as though a strong hit might scrape it off. And dust would stick to it.
So I went back and looked again at my neglected PC laptop vintage 2004. I know that's old in computer years, but it's still quite functional, especially if I give it some attention. It runs Windows XP, which would need to be updated if necessary, but not the much-maligned Vista. It isn't very powerful, so that I would forfeit the use of
music software synthesizers on it. But it still runs CorelDraw 12 (which is 3 years out of date, but again still functional). And that's what I really need it to do.
The image above will show you why I love CorelDraw. It was done in about 30 minutes "speedpaint" time. The starry background was done in Corel PhotoPaint. The texture boxes were then added in CorelDraw. CorelDraw has this wonderful set of multicolored textures which you can add to any shape. You can change the colors in the textures any way you want. I'm sure you can do this in Photoshop too but it is much more work. In order to maintain the industry standard, I could then import my Corel work into Photoshop and re-save it, thus giving it the proper professional graphics cachet.
Revisiting CorelDraw I felt this warm familiarity that I have not felt with a graphic program since I had to switch to Photoshop CS2. I don't have to fight and argue with it and push it around to get stuff done. So for now I am going to stay with existing equipment and not buy anything new, except maybe another drawing tablet. I must then clear up a certain ethical problem in that I promised the laptop to a friend, when I thought I was going to buy a new one. I'm sure that people will understand.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I design decorative price tags for my Trader Joe's. These are always seen by the customer, though not often remarked upon. They are part of the general appeal of the store. A couple of years ago, I did them on a computer in a pseudo-Victorian style, but current policy forbids digital media and wants only hand-done art. I still use the computer to color the drawings in. This one is for the cereal section. I drew the original (2.25 inches by 7.25 inches) in brown ink, then scanned it into Photoshop and added color. There must always be a bit of "Hawaiiana" in the designs, hence the "driftwood," the carvings, and the leaves of tropical foliage.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It's getting to that time of year again, when I go to DarkoverCon in Timonium, Maryland just north of Baltimore, on Thanksgiving weekend. This will be, believe it or not, the 31st DarkoverCon. It started in 1977 as just a one-day meeting in July in Brooklyn, and reached its height in the 80s and 90s in Wilmington, Delaware and then in the Baltimore northern suburbs. Now it has declined to a three-day party for a group of friends, crafters, gamers, musicians, and fantasy fans.
Marion Zimmer Bradley was the focus of the convention, which was started by fans of her popular Darkover series. While she was still active and writing, the convention thrived. I was, during the '80s, kind of the "house artist" for Darkover fans. I also did four professional book covers for Darkover books published from 1981-1984. The image posted here, painted in 1980, is not a book cover, though it is the shape of a book cover and I thought perhaps I could sell it as one (but didn't).
Darkover as Marion conceived of it was a world rather like the fantasy of 19th century Scotland, as visualized by Pre-Raphaelite and Art Nouveau artists and racy Victorian novel-writers. It was full of heroic tartan-clad warriors and bodice-straining wind-tossed babes. There was plenty of swordplay and lots of magic and glowing special effects. Red-haired people had the most magical gift; flame-red hair was an obsessive motif in the books, hence the heavy use of hair dye among Darkover fans (myself included).
There was plenty of sex, too. Marion's plots usually included young hotties who were somehow prevented from consummating their passionate loves, whether in straight or gay relationships. The girl in my painting looks underage, and is probably 16 in the story, although Marion described her as looking even younger than her age, due to evil magical sex-retarding techniques (I am not making this up). This does not prevent her from eloping with the red-haired hero. Eventually she ends up in a "marriage for four," a polyamorous paradise which was tried many times among the fans with almost always disastrous results. The knife-wielding disaster about to happen in the picture is the girl's brother, who doesn't approve of her forbidden liaison.
Marion Zimmer Bradley (often referred to as MZB) lost her health in the 90s and was barely able to make it to her own convention. In her later years she was a sad sight, unable to walk or even eat comfortably, but her fans stayed with her to the end. She died in 1999, but her convention lives on, specializing in fantasy writing exclusively by women authors.
Image: "The Bloody Sun," painted in 1980, acrylic on masonite, 10" x 18".
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This isn't really an "Art By-Product," it's an official Art Product. But since my official art blog "Quality Art Product" isn't quite ready yet, I am posting it here first. All five of my regular readers will remember that I posted a Photoshop sketch in these colors last month, and speculated that I would make art or graphics in these colors. Well here's my first attempt. It's called "Gold Wing" and it's acrylic on coated board, 12" x 16". I'll be showing it at my usual show at DarkoverCon convention, this Thanksgiving weekend. Some of my collectors may be there. Anyway, it is a finished piece, something I haven't been able to get done in many months. When Quality Art Product is ready, I'll post it there too.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I went on a caffeine-fueled shopping spree at my local mall, Tysons Corner. I drew this little sketch while drinking a Starbucks iced grande americano. I came into the mall wanting some things, which I found and got: fancy soap, illustration books, and mini and RCA plug connector cables. That list probably says a lot about me right there. I also found clothing in purple or orange which was left over from fall offerings and was now heavily discounted, so I bought that. I really wanted a pair of "Uggs," the very popular sheepskin boots worn by chic young ladies all over the country. This is the fashion standard for winter wear. They wear their skin-tight jeans tucked into the Uggs. I saw plenty of imitation boots for less, but for proper fashion identity it must be the original "Ugg" brand from Australia. I was willing to pay the price nevertheless. I have always wanted to be in fashion and wear visibly labeled status symbol items. But then I realized that I cannot wear skin-tight jeans, because I do not have the figure to wear anything skin-tight. Sticking my baggy jeans into Uggs would just be a waste of time and money. Instead, I use a status symbol computer (iMac) despite the fact that nothing I can load on it will read my hundreds of CorelDraw files.
I am a good American consumer and want to look like a good upscale urbanite mall shopper. My fashion options, though, seem less and less as I walk through the mall looking at clothes that I wouldn't fit into. I am now in the proper consumer position of perpetually wanting stuff that I am not able to have, while having too much stuff that I don't use. I didn't buy Uggs, either, since I already have plenty of totally un-chic but useful boots from status-negative places like Lands End, which sells durable, in fact probably immortal clothes untouched by any whisper of chicness or urbanity.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
More from my ad campaign welcoming customers home to a mythic harvest of good foods. These signs go in the produce department. They are 2 of 12, each one the front or back of a painted foamboard sign, 6 signs altogether. These two are among the better ones of the series. They are not two sides of the same board. I started with spray paint, then had to bring the job inside due to rain and continue by hand rather than spraying. Acrylic markers and spray paint on different colored foamboards, approximately 30 inches wide and 14 inches tall. The "Thanksgiving harvest" inscription is written on a piece of shiny metallic thick paper. I did the whole 6-sign job in one day.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
A quick improvisation in Photoshop. I work with Photoshop because I have to, but I would really like to also work with CorelDraw, a program which has many features I don't find in Photoshop. CorelDraw is only for PC, not Mac. I have an old PC laptop which has CorelDraw 12, but I would like to get an updated version. Dell is offering "Studio" laptops, which seem to be aimed at artistic types, for a fair price. However everyone I know tells me not to get any PC, let alone a Dell, and that Windows Vista is universally poisonous. "Once you go MAC, you'll never go BACK." But...I am not as insanely devoted to the Mac system as its advocates are. And since I am a superficial arty type, I will admit that I am attracted to this Dell "Studio" laptop because it comes in orange, my favorite color. If Macintoshes came in orange instead of milky white, I'd probably buy one of those. I am not referring to the candy-colored iMacs of some years ago, which looked like sticky lollipops.
I am told that this majestic iMac has an option of running lowly twisted Windows if you do something to its innards. Then I could switch over to this pseudo-Windows to do work in CorelDraw. And then this Mac would seize even more than it already does with Photoshop/Illustrator CS2. Oh, sorry, Macs don't seize. That would be my fault for insulting it. I am tempted to get my can of spray orange paint and just vandalize it. But of course I won't.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
In keeping with the porch-and-fall-leaves theme I have been doing at work, here is one of its precursors: an ink and watercolor picture from my 1984 sketchbook, dated October 11. This is a grand old house on Garfield Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In those days, the house was not in such good repair (it has been renovated now) but the architectural details were very sketchworthy. And in the fall the sugar maples on this street put on an eye-blasting display of color. I did not enhance the colors here, I tried to make them as accurate as I could.
Back in Massachusetts my father seems to be recovering, though his mental state is still "iffy." He was able to hold a lucid conversation with me though after a while he started to ramble. I don't know how to care for an old person and what is "normal" and what is not. I hope he gets some sort of professional care. My mother is looking into it but cost, and my father's resistance, is an ongoing problem.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Here's the announcement I made for the Thanksgiving promo booklet, the "Pilgrimager Flyer." The theme as I conceived it for this ad campaign is "Home for the Holidays," with the white carved wood porch railings and ornaments as the visual identification. There are now signs with these logos up all over the store indicating "flyer items."
The white porch and the autumn leaves are part of my attempt to market comfort food to the already eager customers of Trader Joe's. Affluent or not, they have seen their finances go "splat" in the last half of this year, and even with the election madness over, their lives are uncertain. They can't buy any luxuries, but they can at least buy good food.
The "Home for the Holidays" ad campaign once again illustrates my belief that much of what we see and think is made-up. Not "fake," but mythic and story-like. Even though those small towns where everyone helps each other do exist, it is the idea and the story which really move us. Very few of us urban folk really venture into the country for rugged outdoor adventures, and yet we wear clothes and carry gear originally created for mountaineers and explorers. When I look outdoors at a beautiful autumn gold tree against dark clouds, I see a calendar scene, in which a country road leads to the porch of the home where an imaginary unreal family - who are NOT orcs - waits to welcome me.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Most of the people who read this Blog know what I look like, but for the people who happen by this place and don't, here is a fairly accurate self-portrait. I am an orc. Most orcs are fighters, but I am stuck being an artist instead of a maker of mayhem. Instead, I turn to cheap wine and mind-numbing artwork about pastries and pretty landscapes. Don't believe those game illustrations showing sexy female orcs. Every female in fantasy is young, half-naked, and always sexy. Real female orcs look like me. Don't bother me in my studio. You won't like my orc-ish reaction.