This rather burdened character appeared at DarkoverCon. She definitely made an amazing presence and one wondered how she could walk. I suppose it is a matter of balance. I might be exaggerating a bit in this drawing, which is from memory....but not by much.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Only a couple hundred people showed up for DarkoverCon so this is a fair sample of the types who attended. I sold unusually well for a small convention (thank you, art-loving friends!) and was on some interesting panels. There were a lot of nice costumes including Victorianoid Steampunkery. Steampunk has gone from cool to cliche' in record time, no more than a year it seems. But wait...I have plans for some Steampunk style art, done from an authentic period-era Victorian fantasy novelist, Marie Corelli, whom no one knows these days. It won't be the same old goggles-and-corset business.
Meanwhile, this is what you do when you have a sketchbook and you are bored after the end of the convention but you can't go home yet. You draw any damn thing including this thrilling (not) desk lamp and empty bottle of Sprite. This is the artist's life. Or perhaps, the unimaginative artist's life. Someone else would be drawing dragons or barbarian warriors or spaceships.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Well well me buckos, time to party hearty. I will be off to DarkoverCon and will not post to the By-Product until I get home next Monday. I'd better make some drawings there. This one here is another fan-related art piece. It is the Holidays card for the staff of BucConeer, which was the World Science Fiction Convention in Baltimore in 1998. The theme for that convention, was (could you guess?) pirates, so that's what they asked for on their card. CyberPirate poses with a glass of some hooch, as his cat takes the wheel. Arrr ye mateys, have a fine Thanksgiving and remember it's not ALL about the feasting. Even a pirate has something to be thankful for.
"BucConeer" Holiday Card is ink on Bristol board, 5" x 7", November 1995.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
It's almost that time again, for me to go to "Darkover Grand Council," the annual convention of fantasy fans which once belonged to Marion Zimmer Bradley and her admirers. It might as well be a Goblin Market, full of vendors, entertainment, and unusual costumes. I will have an art show there, along with a few other folks, and maybe if I'm lucky I'll make a few bucks. But if all goes well at least I'll see my friends and enjoy a few parties.
Marion Z. Bradley used to have a fantasy magazine where she and her writer friends and fans could publish short fiction and original art. I did a lot of illustrations for this magazine, whose run ended in 1999. This was one of the later things I did, for a very short tale by Marion featuring her cross-dressing mage, Lythande.
"Goblin Market" is ink on Bristol board, 7 1/2" x 4 1/2", May 1999. Published summer 1999. The lettering was printed out from computer typesetting and pasted directly onto the art.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I never give up hope that I will learn to draw human figures well. These are some practice drawings, some from my Chris Hart learn-figures book (including the peanut-like basic torso form) and others from a reference photo that I found. I searched for ages before I finally found a photo of a man in the position I was looking for. This is the figure with his left arm up and his right hand on his hip. He will eventually be the model for what I am calling the "Heroic Engineer," an Ayn Rand illustration of John Galt standing by the Dieselpunk-style engine he created. Yes, Rand is "dieselpunk," a sort of steampunk advanced into the smoky, crackling age of diesel and electricity. The figure in the lower left is my best try so far but I have a long way to go. Meanwhile I continue to try to do graceful, pretty ladies in drawings too. Now what happens if the lady is an engineer? Does she still have to look like a pin-up in revealing attire while she's cranking the gears? Remember, there are many representations of women which are still taboo in popular art.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Here's one of my latest efforts for Trader Joe's. It is a tiny piece, only about 5 inches by 3 1/2 inches, and it's made to be the price tag template for TJ's featured holiday wines. The blank area is where you write in the name, description, and price of the wine. I added a scene that could be from any of the wineries I've been visiting. As winter arrives, many of the wineries prepare indoor dining and gathering rooms, some of them with a fireplace to give you a homelike atmosphere. Working with food and wine is sort of an archetypal experience. You follow the seasons, not like an agriculturalist would but with the availability of various goods, and the customers' imagination. The world may be cold and harsh and full of bitterness, but indoors there are sweets and wine by a friendly hearth.
"Holiday Wines" is ink on paper, colored in Photoshop, 5 1/2" x 3 1/2", November 2010.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
This is one of my most notorious images. I've sold a lot of prints of it nevertheless. I almost never do images of well-known media characters and this is a very rare exception. I did it for my friend Laura J. who at the time was a big Trek fan. Mr. Spock was her favorite character. He is depicted in a meditative pose from the movie STAR TREK II, in an "icon" conception, with halo and inscription. Two candles burn beside him, one red and one green, red for Captain Kirk and Earthling blood, green for Spock and Vulcan blood. Incense rises from a Vulcan incense burner. Some pious types objected to the Christian icon tradition re-adapted to a television and movie character.
Laura J. left this with me when she moved away and I have never returned it. She lost interest in STAR TREK and went on to other things. I know you're reading this, LauraJ, so if you want old Spock back, just say so.
"Saint Spock of the Spaceways" is acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 9", August 1985.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
You saw the background a few days ago, now here's the finished picture. I created the "Drama Girl of Darkover" referencing from a stock photo offered on deviantART, of a girl in a white "princess" dress striking an appealing pose. I changed the colors of the dress and hair, and made her a bit more distraught. Women get distraught a lot on Darkover. The official title of this piece is "Forsaken of Darkover," which sort of tells whatever story is needed. Why she is in St. Louis, however, or what St. Louis is doing on Darkover, is a mystery. But that Archway got there somehow.
"Forsaken of Darkover" is Photoshop, 2100 pixels x 3000 pixels, 7" x 10", November 2010. You can click on the image for a bigger view.
Friday, November 19, 2010
The Post-Modern Tarot was created with the CorelDraw graphics program and was originally printed on an HP PaintJet printer. The color scheme for the cards is based on the Neo-Kabbalistic idea that each card symbolically links together two stations on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (which resembles an esoteric flow-chart of the Universe. ). Since each station has a color, each card features two colors in combination. This one has brown and orange as its color pairing.
This concept of the Tarot comes from the same body of Western Esoteric lore that produced the "Ritual" painting that you saw here a few days ago. But I gave it a modern twist, using symbols from our own era rather than the Renaissance ones usually depicted on Tarot cards. In this one, Judgement Day is a nuclear explosion over a city. No angel with a scale will save the victims of a nuclear blast.
The "Post-Modern Tarot" (later re-named the "CorelDraw Tarot") was created on CorelDraw 3 from 1991 to 1992. Each image is 7" x 10".
Thursday, November 18, 2010
This scene of kitchen magic takes place in a fantasy Mediterranean land where old women work helpful magic with common household materials like sugar, flour, glass, and water. The original title for this piece was "Mother Marisa and the Fountain." I later simply called it "Magical Mama." The original location for this little fountain square was in Vence, France. I copied it from one of my countless books of Mediterranean architecture. I wanted to depict an old woman who was not a wicked witch nor a Pagan herbalist. In most of fantasy and comic book art, positive images of older women are taboo. Look for them and you will see. In Fantasy Art Land, women are either hot, barely clad, and young...or non-existent. In literature, they appear more often, such as the wonderful older women of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Interestingly, I had trouble selling this picture, and finally sold it to an older woman.
"Magical Mama" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 12", May-June 1989.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Marion Zimmer Bradley died more than ten years ago, but her convention and her world of Darkover lives on. The World of the Red Sun is populated by romantic figures: the forbidden lovers, the mad king, the brave (female) knight, the sadistic but sexy male villain. There are still stories to be told, and even now Darkover-based fiction is published by authors who were friends of Marion's and who are willing to carry on her legacy.
This is a background, set in the World of the Red Sun. I will put a figure in front of it. I may be overcome with wussiness about producing new art, but there is a convention coming up and I have to create at least a few new pieces for it.
"Darkover Background" is Photoshop, 7" x 10".
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
In the late 80s I was very involved with Western Esotericism, which is sometimes called "occultism" by people who don't approve of it. Unlike greeny, emotional Neo-Paganism, it offered an urban, intellectual, complex path for cerebral types like me who were unsatisfied with simple-minded ordinary religion. Western Esotericism also had neat graphics, a colorful symbol system, and lots of interesting mythology and role-playing. It also had the possibility, no matter how fantastic or unreal, of actually causing changes in the "real world" by magical means, that is, a magical technology.
The means that Western Esotericism used were rituals. By the late 19th century, scholarly mystical types had put together a coherent body of occult symbolism and ritual, derived from European Renaissance magic, Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Tarot, Freemasonry, and alchemy. This cultural collection was used in occult groups such as the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians. By the late 20th century, the "Western Tradition" had been standardized so that most Euro-American occultists recognized a common set of symbols. For instance, this included the use of four colors (blue, red, green, yellow, three primaries and one secondary), four Archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel) and the four directions, used especially in Freemasonic ritual.
That's what's in this painting of mine, done in 1989. It depicts an idealized group of ritualists, who have their own church-like ritual space, their own custom vestments, and best of all, real magical powers to make things light up. There's one chief celebrant for each color, and the environment is loaded with symbols (such as flags, lanterns, lettering, glowing bits, and checkerboard floor). I added the occult motto "As Above, So Below" translated into Latin above the colonnade. I designed the vestments for two male and two female celebrants. I also designed the banners held by the acolytes. The golden winged sun above the apse is from alchemical illustrations. There are more things that I threw in there for people to find.
This picture is fantasy because the celebrants are actually doing visible magic. Real magic, altering reality by the use of symbols and symbolic actions, is much trickier, and scarier. This Lodge is doing the kind of ritual that I and my esoteric friends longed to do: pretty, introspective, and very much on the side of the good angels.
"Magical Lodge" is watercolor and other media on illustration board, 20" x 16", July 1989.
Monday, November 15, 2010
This is another of a series of round-top backdrops I'm doing for the vegetable and fruit displays at Trader Joe's. It's inspired by a real view that I enjoyed at Willowcroft Winery. The day I went to Willowcroft I blithely forgot my camera so I missed recording some splendid autumn scenery. But I have a good visual memory, so this is an impressionistic view depicting what I saw, not a photographic one. You can see the leaves flying in the wind. There was a misty autumn glow in evening sunlight over the valley, it was heavenly. This little bit of heaven will be behind bananas or pomegranates or bags of apples.
"Autumn Glow" is acrylic markers on Masonite, about 3 ft. by 2 ft.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
You can't make this stuff up. This is for real, at least as real as a digital camera can record. The sunset is behind the vine rows of Chrysalis Vineyards near Middleburg, VA. Virginia is the most beautiful state I've ever been in and I want to keep living here. I would move to the "urban countryside" in Northern Virginia if I could but you have to either be born there or be a multi-millionaire or be willing to put in a 90-minute commute each way to and from work. I'll be happy to spend Saturdays out here taking pictures, drawing landscapes, and sipping wine.
This is a photograph. As with the New England autumn leaves I don't see how I could do any better with paint or pixels. Besides I'm having a lot of trouble making any art. Not the commercial work for Trader Joe's, I mean the illustration work that I need to put into my portfolio. The more I look at the work of the current illustrators, whether on deviantART or on their own websites, the more discouraged I get. I feel like the only thing I'm entitled to do is training drawings, thousands of them, and nothing "finished" or elaborate because I don't know how to do the hot exciting work that will get me illustration jobs. I mean, just look at this ossum stuff, this is what they want nowadays. But I don't even know where to BEGIN, let alone do something like that.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I catalogue all my art works. Every piece has a number. In the spring of 1986 I reached a major number: 500. I wanted to do something really special for the round number, so I retrieved a design I had had in my files but never realized. This is a Symbolist painting of a Catholic doctrine, the "Assumption" of the Virgin Mary after her death. In Catholic Christian mythology, the Virgin Mary did not die in the ordinary way of human beings, but was bodily taken up to Heaven where she now enjoys eternal life as a holy being helping souls in the Universe. Non-Catholics (and many Catholics) find this whole thing absurd but it makes great pictures and gives a mystical third dimension (upwards) to a human word-based religion.
The Virgin is represented in this semi-abstract painting by a lily flower done in aluminum-gold leaf. She ascends into a cobalt blue empyrean, leaving a trail of light blue starshine. Sky blue is the traditional color of the Virgin Mary's cloak. Below, at the bottom of the picture is a stylized landscape of hills in green, light blue, and purple. Another name for this picture is "Le lys bleu,", ("The Blue Lily") a French name recalling the Symbolist and Surrealist inspirations for this work.
The picture was released in 1988 and shown at Esotericon '88, in Elizabeth, N.J. This was a convention for Western Esoteric and Pagan interests. A hotel employee named Anna-Marie diGennaro, seeing the picture in the art show across from her office, fell in love with it and bought it from the convention. So my symbolist Virgin Mary went to a nice Italian Catholic household. I wonder where it is now.
Meanwhile, after 24 years, I am coming up on another major catalog number. I hope to create picture number 1000 in 2011.
"The Assumption of the Virgin Mary" is acrylic on Masonite board, 12" x 26", May 1986.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I'm back to drawing figures from formulas. This is from the Chris Hart figure drawing book I mentioned earlier. This approach is directed completely at commercial artists and comic book illustrators and is in no way "fine arty." And you know, I'm OK with that. You draw some guidelines, put together the formula shapes, attempt to get your proportions right, and just copy the drawing.
I'm supposed to copy Exquisite Renaissance Drawings by godlike Michelangelo and Raphael, or plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues, 'cause that's how Academic artists learn. But then I'm also supposed to take anatomy classes and draw day after day from real models posing in real old messy studios. If I had another life to live, sure I'd go and do that. But I don't. So I take advantage of what is offered in books and online and there's a lot more options for private learners than there used to be. Right now my drawings suck but sooner or later I'll have something that will be worth putting a costume and colors on. And for females, remember, draw the boobs first and make sure they're big and spherical.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
This Blue Ridge winter landscape is not a gallery piece, it's a backdrop for fruits and vegetables at Trader Joe's. I was tasked to do these backdrops on seasonal themes, with a local connection if possible. By now I have memorized the Shenandoah terrain and can generate images of it from memory in all seasons, so this vegetable calendar scene is for winter. Shelley wrote: "If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" The answer is, yes, you're gonna look at bare trees until April. At least you can munch on apples and bananas through the miracle of modern transportation.
Acrylic on masonite, about 2 feet x 3 feet.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I'm somewhat reluctant to post this image on the By-Product because it reminds me of such a terrible time in my life. It was done with my then-new airbrush between December 1979 and January 1980. This was a time of great emotional and spiritual turmoil for me. I had been baptized Roman Catholic earlier in '79 and was trying to make sense out of my new life as a Christian. I was still very much a science fiction fan living in the "fannish" culture. I was trying to imagine what life as a science-fiction-fan Christian would be like, and what kind of lifestyle such a Christian would lead. In those days, in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I lived, Roman Catholics in the academic world were very left-wing and in sympathy with revolutionary movements in Central America and elsewhere. Doing political and social action for the "liberation of the people of God" was the only way you were supposed to show your Christian faith. But I was never political nor did I believe in those causes. So I wondered what a science fiction/fantasy artist would do to contribute to Christian action. This and other emotional struggles wrecked my life back then. I didn't have a lot of friends to turn to.
I was reading books on Ignatian spirituality, the way of the Jesuits, back then. There was one book called "The Ignatian Mystical Horizon," which I never quite understood and didn't finish. But I loved the title and turned it into a visual image. I imagined a mysterious light on an ocean horizon, into which a single jet plane (trailing a contrail of illuminated vapor) bravely flew. The jet plane is flown by an intrepid Space Jesuit, who was both adventurer and priest. The light on the horizon was inspired by seeing lightning in the distance overseas some years earlier while I was on a ship in the Mediterranean. So what you see is a single illumination flash rather than the clouds of breaking dawn.
This picture was popular in its day even though I never really explained it (before now). It got into an exhibition of science fiction art that was shown at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. During the transportation from this exhibit, the painting was damaged and when it was returned to me I just buried it in my closet rather than try to restore it.
In 1989, I became one of the first members of the Order of St. Michael, a religious group for science-fiction Christians. This was an answer to the friendless struggles I went through ten years earlier. I also did pieces of esoteric, fantasy/Christian art, which gave my own personal work significance that I could not find in social action. The Order of St. Michael is still going after more than 20 years. I am not as openly religious or spiritual as I was in the era of this painting but I still can do spiritual work through my art.
"Mystical Horizon" is acrylic on Masonite, 18" x 14", 1979-80.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I did this illustration for a magazine cover in 1995. The magazine was VISUAL BASIC TECH, a mag for users of a program called, uh, "Visual Basic," the nature of which completely escapes me. However the mag, knowing its readership, also published science fiction. This illustration, called "Exit to Earth," was done for a story by Jerry Oltion. The story involved road rage and bad drivers in heavy traffic at an interstellar gateway to Earth. There was also some campy humor and wilderness adventure. I don't remember much, it was a long time ago. The little red sports spaceship in front, is driven by the hero and his girlfriend, and they are stuck behind a large, ungainly space RV filled with space rednecks. It was published in early 1995, perhaps February.
"Exit to Earth" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 15", January 1995. This picture was rescued from a wretched slide, thanks to the magic of Photoshop.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I spent Sunday working on this graphic for Trader Joe's. The theme was assigned by the manager. This is the third "goofy turkey" that I have done for this year's advertising decorations. This one is based on Sesame Street's "Big Bird." Thanksgiving isn't a solemn holiday at Trader Joe's. The empty word balloon at the right will say, "Look for our Thanksgiving Flyer signs all around the store." There is an abundance of goodies.
Spray paint and acrylic markers on Masonite board, about 3 feet by 4 feet.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Still in the mood of Darkover under the red sun, here's this planet which may be suitable for life as we know it. The planet has an atmosphere and weather, which is promising. In the books Darkover is said to orbit a red giant, which is variable and fading in intensity. But there are also planets that orbit red dwarfs, which are small stars which are not as bright as our Sun but could provide enough light and warmth for life on a planet nearby. If Darkover's star is a red giant, which is an overblown late development of a previously Sun-like star, then that red giant would have consumed all its inner planets as it slowly expanded. That would make Darkover probably an outer planet which was warmed up by the red giant, enough so that life could evolve. However the time frames for evolution of life and the development of a red giant stage may not be compatible. If Darkover orbited a red dwarf though, its "month" of about 40 days (mentioned in the Bradley books) may actually be its orbital period, or its "year." Seasonal differences taking longer than 40 days might be caused by other factors such as interstellar gas which dims the star's light, or variations in the star itself.
Marion Zimmer Bradley was a storyteller, not an astronomer, so she never did any astronomical fact-sheets for the Darkover system. That has not stopped fans like me from speculating on just how the World of the Red Sun came to be.
The title of this piece, "A World Lit Only by Fire," comes from a book by historian William Manchester which I have not read, but I loved the title.
Acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", January 1998.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Darkover is the world made up by Marion Zimmer Bradley, in which fantasy and science fiction co-exist under a red sun. There is magic and psychic powers, but also an interstellar empire and space ships and colonists from Earth. There are alien races, some of them sentient, and there is medieval-style warfare fought with ancient weapons and psychic magic. There's something for everyone on Darkover. This is a scene of a peaceful place on Darkover, where the old castle has not been used for warfare in many years. It's my first "authentic official" matte painting. Matte paintings are big open scenes that can be used as background for close-up action in films or videogames.
Even though the size is only 10" x 7", the pixel size (resolution) of this piece is high: 3000 x 2100. It can be blown up to a larger size for printing or publication. In this post I've used it at a larger size than I usually do, so if you click on the image you can get a big view and see the details. There may not be any pin-up fantasy babes in it, but it's a legitimate matte painting.
"Darkover Idyll" was done in Photoshop CS4. This was not a "speedpainting." It took quite a while, perhaps about 8 hours over 2 days: November 4 and 5, 2010. If all goes well, I'll have prints of this available at DarkoverCon.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Somewhere out there in Universeland there is a planet exactly like Earth, orbiting a Sun just like ours. This planet even has one big moon just as we do. But we are not there, nor is there any intelligent life there. Some accident happened and whatever creatures were supposed to become sentient and intelligent were all killed off. So this place belongs to the bacteria and the plants and the animals, but no consciousness such as we have.
It is now required by our current notions to say that if humans or something like them came to this planet, its environment, creatures, and ecosystems would be destroyed by their greed and destructive invasion. We can do nothing but destroy our planet, any other planet, and ourselves. I am also required by my intelligence to deny that this destruction is due to Original Sin. I mustn't believe in such barbaric stuff. I must eke out the rest of my pitiful life knowing that things are only going to get worse for me and for our doomed civilization. But I will still try to draw human figures no matter what, at least until the lights go out.
Picture from a previous millennium. Title: "A Home Away from Home." Acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", January 1998.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
If anyone is looking at this post, they may notice that I posted it in the evening around 6 PM. I promised myself I'd post every day, but the promise doesn't say when during the day. Last night I stumbled home from work, and after a delicious repast of Trader Joe's pot roast and vegetables, and a glass or two of Naked Mountain wine, I just, uh, lay down and dozed the evening away. And did not post. So here I am.
Does it matter? I'd like to produce some glamour girls for you, but now I'm too timid to do a whole body because I don't have any figure skills any more. Copying an existing art work by someone else does not count. I recently re-discovered a very nice digital art training site where I hope to learn something: the "2D Digital Art Guide." The stupid question that is keeping me from doing art is, if I am trying to learn something new, how can I make the finished works of art I need for shows and portfolio, because anything digital and figurative I do will suck until I learn how to do it really well like those 21-year-old dazzlers from China. Which will take years for me to do. I'm so frustrated about this. So c'mon whoever is looking at this (if anyone is) leave a comment, even if it is to tell me to shut up. And Tristan, please get help, don't give up.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The colors of autumn appear in this cloudy nebula in which a few proto-planets have already formed. These nebulas look like steamy vapor to us but in reality they are made of a thin cloud of inorganic and some organic (containing carbon and oxygen) molecules. It may look thick and opaque but if you were in it I don't think you would have much cosmic smog, it is actually quite tenuous and rarefied compared to the atmosphere here on Earth. As always, the colors are artificially enhanced, both in photographs and in artist's conceptions.
Acrylic on illustration board, 10" x7", January 1998.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Just a little sketch done in Photoshop, inspired by Audrey Hepburn. The geranium is one of my plants which have now been taken inside away from the first frost of the season. Foxes bark outside my building in the November cold. I'm not too disappointed with this face, I am OK with pretty faces now as long as I remember the formula and the proportions.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I have finally come to the end of digitally transcribing my space art. This is one of the last astronomical pieces I collected in color slide form. Also around 1998 I stopped doing these series of small airbrush pieces and went on to other types of art, whether "fine art" abstraction or fantasy or architectural renderings. So you won't have to yawn at my space clouds any more, unless I somehow create some new ones. Which are likely to be digitally rendered and not splattered with messy airbrush paint. I called this one "Oceanshore" because it sort of looked like waves and sand. Acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", January 1998.
Now that I have the study and image resources necessary to improve my art and turn myself back into an Illustrator, I find that I have become seriously stuck and unable to make any art at all other than my architectural or landscape sketches, which I can do while sipping wine, or for that matter, while asleep. I want to make exciting art with fantasy characters and beautiful women in them...anything other than houses and hills, but when I look at the fabulous stuff on deviantART I just despair of doing anything half as good. The idea that I will have to spend 10,000 hours practicing figurative and illustration sketching is also such a downer that I don't want to pick up my Wacom stylus or even my old #2 pencil. If I have to go through all these lessons and figure practice all over again, how can I make any illustration at all? No final pieces to put in my portfolio? No concept art or complete images? Well, I guess you better get used to endless pencil drawings of sketch layouts and body parts, except for my vintage art from the archival slide files, where I somehow managed to do some decent work without too much formal training at all.