Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Floating Spherical Cats of Virginia

The beginning of High Summer in the foothills of the Shenandoah in Virginia is, as always, signaled by the arrival of the giant floating spherical cats. These creatures, which feed on mist, air, and emanations from fields and vineyards, seem threatening, but are actually harmless. They have been known to settle in meadows to bask in the sun. Residents often try to shoot at them, but nothing has ever harmed them, which suggests that these may be multi-dimensional in nature. After the autumn grape harvest, the cats float away and disappear, escaping to some unknown place where it is warm, to return the following June.

Inspired by this picture on "Cute Overload." Photoshop, a couple of hours, June 30, 2010.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Threads of Light

I still think blue and red are the best colors for space paintings, given that the real colors aren't visible to our human eyes. Add a line of pink clouds and you have instant spaceability. I used more blotter paper work on the red stuff, plus brushwork. Illuminating gas is always an astronomical image enhancer.

My work on Bizmac has been hampered by a bad cold which developed into bronchitis and has cost me days of work. I haven't been Productive and it bothers me. I am a good red-pink-and-blue American and believe that Productivity is the most important thing to have. Meanwhile I stare at dazzling work by 21-year-old Chinese illustrators and realize how far away my goal of being an Illustrator is.

"Threads of Light" is the usual, October 1991.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Unreal City

This is the first Photoshop sketch I have done on the new iMac. All these little color fragments are produced in Photoshop's "scatter" mode which the previous computer hesitated on. Bizmac powers right through it. When I think of how much calculating work it takes to make this type of thing, I am awed and amazed. The clouds were done with "pre-set" shape makers, too. But I added the lightning bolt by hand. We could use a bit of that right now here in well-heated Midatlantica. The air conditioning goes all night long these days. The computer is also hot if you touch the top of it. I love the look and feel of brushed aluminum which is what the iMac's case is made of. I hope my creative output is worthy of this 21st century marvel.

"Unreal City," Photoshop, 10" x 7", June 27, 2010.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Welcome, Bizmac

Let's give a hearty welcome to my latest studio computer, a brand new iMac! This beauty is a 2.8 gigaherz quad-core intel core i7, with a 27" diagonal screen and 8 gigabytes of RAM, expandable to 16. Equipped with 1 terabyte hard drive. Its name is "Bizmac," after the 1956 computer made by RCA. You also see my geometric abstraction titled "Bizmac" on the screen. A Wacom graphics tablet is visible in front of Bizmac.

Both Internet browsing and all my graphics work just dandy on this system, so I now must get creative and make it worthy of my expenditures.

Meanwhile, I seem to have to pick off Chinese and Indian spams from my comment list here every day. I wish that someone more clever than I would help Blogger combat this insidious infestation.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sapphire in Gold

As 1991 went on I used more unusual colors and textures in my space abstractions. This one features a yellow-orange nebula and textures created by pressing paint-loaded paper towels onto the surface. Then the bright blue star (which may have given off the nebula during a nova explosion) was added on by airbrush and some more brushwork.

I will probably be buying a new computer today. I feel a mixture of sorrow with some happy expectation. I have had "Macarios," my current iMac, for about 3 1/4 years. Macarios has had a number of problems over those years, probably caused by me somehow because with a Mac it's always the user's fault. Macarios got the vapors when asked to do too much work, just the way I do. But with the current OS update forced upon it, and working with the overwrought Adobe/Photoshop CS4, Macarios' performance was just too erratic for me to continue using him as my main computer.

I feel bad about this. Computers are like people, but they grow old far faster than we do. They are our helpers and sometimes our antagonists. I can't help but personify this machine. He has tried his best to do what I asked of him, and now I'm dismissing him from my service. How would you feel if this happened to you? I only hope that I can find another home for him, with a cash-poor student who will be glad to have 2007's best computer for her schoolwork.

"Sapphire in Gold" is the usual, October 1991.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Fireworks at the Snack Shop

Enchanted night lights of Summer, fireworks and fireflies, illuminate the board for Mena's snack shop for the next two weeks. The macaroni salad is about a half a cup's worth, and it's really good.

Chalk markers on board, about 30" x 20".

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unquiet Sun

The Sun is not a serene place. It is constantly erupting with explosions of flame and charged particles. Great loops of fiery gas, constrained by magnetic fields, rise above the star's surface and then fall back into the burning abyss. The Sun shoots blasts of particles out from its surface called "coronal mass ejections," some of which reach Earth and wreck our electronic communications. Maybe one of these days the Sun will emit a flare so powerful that it will short out all our telecommunications and return us to the days of handwritten letters on paper sent by postal mail. Then you will receive "Art By-Products" in a manila envelope, if color copiers still work.

I am thinking about this because due to a massive download of so-called operating system updates, my iMac hardly functions any more. Most of my familiar websites are inaccessible and Photoshop runs slowly and haltingly. Fortunately, I was able to get Photoshop working enough to prepare this picture for presentation, and "Art By-Products" was accessible. I am probably going to get a new computer, and put my 2007 model out to pasture. Yes, that is extravagant, but actually the current machine had not been performing well for quite a while, for whatever reason. If there is an interruption in By-Products, the reason will be "migration" to a newer computer.

"Unquiet Sun" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", October 1991.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Castle in the Clouds

There was another brief thundershower Tuesday evening, and when I emerged from work after the rainstorm, what did I see but a magical castle built in the clouds, reflecting the warm light of a summer sunset. No one else saw this but me! I took a picture of it so I could show you what I saw. In a few minutes, the castle had disappeared, back into the dimension of magical vapors.

I will have to admit, for the sake of mundanity, some Photoshop was used here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

After the Supernova

Supernovas leave a lot of debris behind when they explode. This is good, because we are made out of elements created in supernovas. The high pressure and radiation of the explosions form heavier elements out of the remains of the stars and casts them into space, where they eventually coalesce to become more stars with their planets around them. And from those environments, life evolves. Take it from there, and they build telescopes and computers and talk about supernova debris. This image depicts glowing gases of different kinds in a supernova blast area.

My 35 mm slide transcriptions have improved a lot since I started using a compressed air squirter on the slides to remove the dust. I suppose it also helps that I started with the oldest and least well-preserved images and am now working on comparatively later images. There is a point at which I stopped doing these space pictures, though I did a few of them recently for some convention art shows.

"After the Supernova" is the usual, September 1991.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Beastie

He runs around the garden eating smaller pests. Bugsy isn't too large, about the size of a pea. But he's friendly and has seven eyes. He snatches his dinners with that raspy prehensile tongue. This is not a real creature, it's an imaginary one. Photoshop, not more than an hour's work, June 21, 2010. Happy Summer Solstice!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cloud Star Burst

Another blue painting. I must really like this color. In this one a bright globular cluster of stars can be seen behind the transparent gases of a nebula. I thought of rain while I planned this picture, which was actually a duplicate of a smaller piece I displayed at a convention. A couple of space art fans commissioned me to make a bigger version of the globular cluster piece and here it is (was). The title of both pictures is "Cloud Star Burst," combining metaphors of weather and starlight. There is nothing more lovely to me than a summer rainstorm on a hot humid day, passing by leaving a rainbow in its wake. No rainbow in this picture though.

"Cloud Star Burst" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 14", June 1991.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

State Theater

The State Theater is a Falls Church landmark. It was originally built in the Deco era as you can see by the ornaments. It was a movie theater for years but declined in the 80s until it was almost abandoned. But instead Falls Church investors refurbished it and turned it into a place for live rock shows, jazz, country, and nostalgia acts. Bands who flourished in the 70s and are still around, play here.

I've depicted it in classic Hopper-style "ashcan school" look, in the slanting light and long shadows of winter. This painting was created for a show I had at a local gallery, "Art and Frame of Falls Church," in June 2007. My theme was "Buildings of Falls Church." I titled this one "Nostalgic State."

"Nostalgic State" is watercolor and ink on illustration board, 11" x 14", May 2007.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Two Red Stars

In 1991, the Hubble Space Telescope had not yet shown us the amazingly detailed pictures of nebulae and stars that would later become famous. (Oh, excuse me, not famous, ICONIC.) So I was making it up as I went along with my airbrush space pictures. This one features two bright red stars, accenting the usual blue glow and pink highlights. The title of this picture is "Twin Peaks," named after the iconic TV show which was so popular in 1991. The writers of this bizarre and confused TV series also were making it up as they went along.

"Twin Peaks" is iconic on illustration board, 7" x 10", June 1991.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Galaxy Merge

When two galaxies collide, they go through a complex series of shape changes and gyrations. Sometimes the smaller galaxy gets disassembled and for a while orbits the larger one in the form of a ring of stars. Then in a few more billion years it is re-assembled as one galaxy again, though in another form and sometimes with two black hole centers. This has happened in our universe often, and astronomers can see it happening, though the whole process takes eons. Astronomers can wait. In their minds they can live for billions of years, monitors of the universe, despite living only for an illusory few decades here on this little planet.

"Galaxy Merge" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", June 1991.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Noshir the nouergist

Noshir Atar-ban was one of the nouergists ("techno-mages") who served as relief workers after the catastrophic earthquake in Eridu. (See the April-June entries in my Noantri blog.) He is of the Aurian ethnicity, though he lives as an exile from his own country. Aurians occupied Eridu after the earthquake and put him in a difficult political situation. Eventually he had to leave Eridu rather than risk his hostile countrymen.

He is a mining engineer by occupation, using his powers to locate and extract resources from the earth. Though he uses high technology and nouergic powers in his work, he appreciates the direct action of a simple shovel.

Photoshop colored ink drawing, original about 4" x 9", June 16, 2010.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Steamy Summer Storm

Today was my ideal summer day, steamy and hot with a couple of thunderstorms and downpours in the afternoon. It is my favorite type of weather and I wait all year for it. The clouds were splendid on Monday afternoon and I hurried back into work just before the rains opened up. This is an impression from memory, done in Photoshop, about a half hour's work. Summer sweetness!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Canary Diamond Star

What, no, not another blue nebula picture! The By-Product can be so boring! At least there's one bright yellow star in the picture, hence the title, "Canary Diamond."

I think maybe only a few people are looking at this anyway, such as my faithful fellow artist Tristan, and musician Mike, and, uh, a couple more friends...and those Chinese spammers. Most of my comments are Chinese spam, placed there by humanbots paid to move through the web solving "captcha" security letters and putting spam posts with nonsensical sayings and a click-on ad for Chinese porn.

Just think of how much porn is produced and marketed in the world and on the internet. Trillions of dollars are made because people want to see other people having sex or doing sex-related things. Evolutionary psychology explains everything, that the huge prevalence of porn is related to optimizing sex drives and fertility (especially among males) and satisfying the demand for evolutionary fitness even when evolutionarily fit partners are not available or not willing to copulate without increased stimulus (such as viewing porn). If pornography increases the number of live births among porn users, then it is serving its evolutionary purpose. If it does not increase the number of births among porn users, then there is another evolutionary adaptation at work for which I cannot generate suitable explanatory bullshit.

And that's my sermon for today!

"Canary Diamond" is (the usual), June 1991.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Domes of Fire

My fantasy city extravaganza, "Domes of Fire," was completed in 1998, a commission from some friends. It is a big acrylic on heavy Masonite, and took me months to do. It's from a book by David Eddings, "Domes of Fire." In this scene, the Queen, accompanied by her knightly husband and their court, arrive at a fabulous Far Eastern city where every building, most of them domed, is covered with iridescent mosaic. The Queen is in the carriage. This is an excerpt from the larger complete picture, newly re-scanned from the 8" x 10" color transparency by Digipixart.

I would do this picture very differently nowadays, giving the Queen a starring role and making the buildings bigger rather than filling the space with hundreds of tiny architectural bits. But the DEEE-TAILS are what they paid me for.

"Domes of Fire" is acrylic on Masonite, 20" x 30", summer 1998.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sparks of Creation

Here's where the stars form. Clumps of matter in a nebula get pressed together and start to glow. They coalesce and as they get larger, their gravity brings in more material. Pretty soon, in a few million years, you have a star! Before they are stars, they are sparks, glowing in the infra-red, warming up the cold misty void.

"Sparks of Creation" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", June 1991.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Contemporary Clothes figure study

My next assignment is to draw character studies. These are images of just a character, no background, just what might as well be a blank photo backdrop cloth. You'll be seeing a lot of these. This one here is a young guy in current clothing, as a preliminary study. A co-worker posed for me, and I drew the original line drawing with my tablet in Photoshop directly to the screen, while I viewed the photo of the guy in a separate window. Then after the line drawing was done, I colored it in, again in Photoshop. Pants are hard to draw, whether they are baggy like this guy's or slim. Legs don't always match pants. You have to be able to suggest where the knees are even if you can't see them. In later drawings I'll be working on costumes as well as ordinary clothing. The line drawing doesn't have to be done directly to the screen, though. I can more easily draw it in pencil and scan it in. I'll be an illustrator again, if I can keep this process going.

I hope you like the Orangey new design for "Art By-Products." Blogger offered it so why not fill the screen with my cheerful favorite color.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


On earth, visible lightrays from the sun are called "crepuscular rays." These are the "divine"-looking rays of light which appear at dawn and dusk when the sun is near the horizon and its light is divided up by clouds. They appear because the sunlight lights up clouds or mist. There's no reason why they shouldn't appear in space, too, as long as the observer is in the proper position to view them. What would "spiritual" art be without crepuscular rays? This is not "spiritual" art, just another nebula picture.

"Starbeams" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", June 1991.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Priestess of Atlantis

I am finally done with my "Priestess of Atlantis" piece which has taken six long weeks to produce. This is my first attempt at a "large" detail-filled background and character portrait in ALL DIGITAL medium. It is composed in Photoshop CS4. In order to create the architectural shapes for the temple and some of the other buildings, I either had to draw them out using a masking tool, or create "brushes" which act like "stencils" of pre-made structural elements such as archways, pillars, or windows. Usually this work is done in a 3-D program which builds a "wire-frame" building over which color and texture is mechanically pasted. I built this picture in all 2-D, just as if it were an acrylic painting, and it took just as long. But I was willing to do this so I could learn to create illustrations in Photoshop. The next one won't take me as long, because I know more about it now.

The "Priestess of Atlantis" is inspired by a New Age fantasy called "The Legend of Altazar" by an author who goes by the name of "Solara." I picked this book up at one of the New Age or Pagan conventions I used to attend, and read it recently looking for image inspiration. The model for the Priestess is a lady in New Zealand who posts photographs of beautiful ladies in costumes as well as scenes of New Zealand landscapes, plants, and wildlife. The Temple is adapted from an early twentieth-century World's Fair pavilion.

Now that this one is done, I will go on to other, more dynamic compositions. This was a learning piece, though I may exhibit it somewhere. For now, Atlantis resides only on the Otherworld Wide Web.

"Priestess of Atlantis" is done in Photoshop CS4, 2572 x 3326 pixels, also 8.5" x 11", June 2010.
Click on picture for a larger image.

Here is a detail of the Temple facade:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I used to be a game illustrator. This was long ago in another century, before role-playing games became video and computer extravaganzas. You had a book and a bunch of dice, and a game master who would present scenarios for your characters to fight through. The dice determined what happened in the action.

This illustration is for a game called "The Evil Ruins" which was published by Mayfair Games in 1983. In this scene the characters (here a dwarf warrior and an elven archer) are attacked in a black cave by a huge Manticore, which is a monster with the head of a man, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle. It also has a spiked tail which can impale you if it connects.

I also did game art for a company called "Gamelords" in Maryland near DC. I'll try to find some of that art to show you later on. I'd love to do art for modern games, but the quality of videogaming art is far beyond what I can currently scratch out on Photoshop. Maybe someday I'll be good enough to be a game illustrator again. It would help if I actually played any of these games, but I regret to say I haven't. I don't have the time. I'm busy trying to improve my digital art skills.

"Manticore" is ink on Bristol board, about 10" x 8", fall 1983.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Neon Space

This is from a long series of small space pictures in my standard format, which I did in 1991. That year seems to have been a "banner year" for small space pictures, and I remember turning them out by the dozen with my airbrush and spatter paint. I showed them in lots of places. This one went to "DeepSouthCon" which was in Knoxville, Tennesee that year. I also brought some of them personally to places like Chattanooga and Dalton, Georgia where I made lots of friends among the Southern fans. I had not been down to the "real" South before and I enjoyed it a lot, and I've kept up with at least a few of my Southern fan friends in Tennessee and Georgia and South Carolina.

The picture shows filaments of glowing gas in a hot nebula. Since neon lights are also glowing gas, I titled it "Neon Space." The nebula gas is not neon, though; most nebulae are made of hydrogen, maybe with a little oxygen too.

My records show that I sold this picture for only 10 dollars, to a fan friend who has long since gone beyond the Galactic Rim. I often wonder what happens to the art collection of a fan who dies. Many fans do not have traditional families to leave things to. What was the fate of this picture and the other ones by me and other artists, which this person once owned? Many of them were never framed by the collector and may have been destroyed. Maybe it will turn up someday in a thrift shop or junk shop somewhere in east Tennessee.

"Neon Space" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", June 1991.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

City of Dreams

"Digipixart" has scanned my 8" x 10" color transparency of my fantasy city picture, "City of Dreams." This is an excerpt from the big file they provided. "City of Dreams" has a name, it is "Al-Kyris, City of Dreams." "Al-Kyris" was the mythical city of decadence envisioned by author Marie Corelli in her 1889 fantasy masterpiece, "Ardath." I did this painting as a commission for the famous art collectors Howard and Jane Frank, in 1993. It hung in their collection for many years before they sold it to an author whose (self-published) book had used it (with my permission) as a cover. This would be the first of four fantasy city extravaganzas that I did in the 1990s. I will probably never match that insane proliferation of DEEE-TAILS again, as my eyes aren't that good any more. However, it might be possible for me to duplicate that style digitally in Photoshop, 'cause it allows you to zoom way in to the image if you want to put a single pixel detail in there.

Here's another detail from "City of Dreams." Corelli describes this gilded boat as the conveyance of the wicked and beautiful Snake Priestess. I could do endless illustrations from Corelli's books. She flourished from 1887 to 1925, writing fantasy and science fiction that was authentic "Steampunk," really from that era rather than a modern retro-fitting.

"Al-Kyris, City of Dreams" is acrylic on Masonite, 30" x 20", spring 1993.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Colliding Galaxies

This is a big universe, but galaxies often collide. They don't smash together like cars, and I don't know that many stars actually ram into each other, but when galaxies get close, their gravity pulls each other out of shape. Complex deformations occur in the spirals and pressure waves set off new areas of star formation, astronomical fireworks displays occurring over millions of our years. Sometimes the two galaxies merge and regain a "traditional" whirling galaxy shape. This has happened many, many times and some astronomers think that even our galaxy may have collided with and absorbed another galaxy. We astronomy fans are also told that in a few billion years, our Milky Way will approach and collide with its neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, and will make a lot of cosmic noise, which only the mathematical spirits will hear.

"Galactic Collision" is acrylic on illustration board, 16" x 20", January 1991.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Night Critter

They come out from under my Wacom tablet late at night. I think they're harmless, but they seem to feed on pixels and bandwidth, which is why my computer is going so slowly.

Photoslug, 7" x 7", June 4, 2010.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blossom of Light

Here's another iris from my flowery year of 1991. I got the idea of superimposing irises on nebula pictures, possibly because I was so bored with just the same old blue nebula. In those days I was mystical enough to title this one "Blossom of Light." I painted images of a lot of irises back then. I don't think I'd paint an iris painting now, unless someone commissioned it and paid me a good price for it. Maybe I shouldn't yammer on about this now, since no one is lining up to commission anything from me.

"Blossom of Light" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", May 1991.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spaceship Liner

What would an ocean liner in space look like? It would not be a space colony with a large area for agriculture, nor a warship bristling with weaponry. It would not necessarily be built for speed. Its job is transporting a large number of people through space, whether to a destination or on a cruise. And it should keep the passengers in comfort and luxury as well as safety. When I designed this ship, I gave it the simplest form I could, an egg or "pickle" shape. These natural shapes are the strongest and most stable. That's why I called this picture "High-Concept Spaceship." So when you go on that cruise on the Celestial Skyward line, you know you will see the galaxy from the best viewpoint and have the most fun while on your way.

"High-Concept Spaceship" is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 20", January 1991.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Barandigi character sketch

Barandigi is a character from my Noantri world. She is a young (probably middle to late 20s) woman who is endowed with nouergic powers (see my Noantri weblog for definition and more story). She was discovered among a tribal society which the Beka construction company was removing from the land to make room for a large project. She was purchased from the tribe and brought to Beka headquarters where she was trained to do construction using her nouergic powers. She was given minimal education (not taught to read or write) and in any nouergic work was always under the control of an operator. She was kept placid and unresisting by drugs which she took voluntarily, a common habit in that area of Noantri world.

Even with her nouergic abilities, Barandigi was still classified as a "class 3 fem," that is, the lowest grade of female. In her area of Noantriworld, women are judged exclusively by their physical appearance, judged through a series of beauty contests that every female is required to undergo from earliest childhood. (Males are not tested or classified in this way, but they must go through other test procedures to determine their status and fate in life.)

The prettiest and best-shaped are class 1 fems, and live privileged lives, often partnering men of great power. Those who are good-looking, but not glamorous, are class 2, and are used in the workforce. Class 3 fems are those who fail all the beauty contests and will never fit the standards. They are dressed in shapeless jumpsuits and are employed at menial or dangerous jobs. All women, no matter what their class, become class 3 at their fiftieth birthday, though older class 1s and 2s may remain employed in social service jobs.

Barandigi worked on the demolition of Enlil's "haunted" house (chronicled in my Noantri blog) and from that glimpse of another way of life she became restless and resistant to her life at Beka. She found a mentor in an elder male nouergist, one of her trainers, named Ennio Liatris, who was one of the highest ranked nouergists in the country. When the earthquake happened at Eridu, Ennio took it upon himself to go help the stricken city, and he kidnapped Barandigi to help him in the work. Barandigi saved lives at Eridu. Unfortunately, Ennio Liatris was killed in an accident during the earthquake relief effort, leaving Barandigi without a protector or a controller.

There is more to this story at my Noantri world blog, so please stay tuned.

Barandigi's character portrait is Photoshop, 7" x 10".