Saturday, May 31, 2014

Domestic Geometry

In the spirit of Michael Nobbs, the "sustainably creative" artist in Wales who draws whatever he sees around him, I present this collection of small domestic sketches. I concentrate on the geometry of the objects, basic shapes of rectangles, cones, cylinders, or convex and concave folds. You can see nested shapes of flowerpots, cardboard boxes, and a part of a laundry bag. And in the foreground, stacks of old audiotapes in their boxes, from the 1960s. I am transcribing the music on these tapes to digital files. Some of this music, electronic improvisation from the Brandeis University studio, has not been heard for more than 40 years. If you follow Michael's creativity strategy, there is always something you can do to move your creative life ahead, even if you only have 20 minutes a day.

PItt technical pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", May 30, 2014.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Temple of Saturn

During the pre-millennial years of the mid to late 90s I did a series of concept drawings for an engineer who wanted his private fantasy world illustrated. The name of the world was "Kallitechnia," or in Greek, "beautiful technology." He wanted to express his ideas on technology, beauty, relationships, and biology. I got to do a lot of fanciful design work to his specifications, and he was beginning to build a website for it when he ran out of money for the project. 

This image is his "Temple of Saturn" shaped like the planet, where the neo-pagan Kallitechnians went to worship the gods of technological imagination and physical beauty.

Ink on illustration board, 9 1/2" x 6", March 1997. Click for larger image.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Roman Slave Girl

Another from my series of ancient-historical erotic fetish pastiches. This one was originally titled "A Roman Plaything." It's hard to imagine for us in our current culture (or perhaps not) but this is a slave who was a "property" just like an exotic animal or in modern times, an expensive car. You would have to feed and keep her like a pet, if you were a "good" master. Nowadays, with the renewed abolitionist interest in human trafficking and modern slavery, maybe pictures like this are in bad taste. Or perhaps not.

Mixed media on brown paper, 10" x 7", winter 1994.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mystic City in the Mist

I guess you'd call this a loosely rendered "environment sketch" or a Photoshop doodle or an image essay, something like that. In the mists in the forgotten fantasy mountains is a mystical city, adorned with spires and illuminated buildings on the hillsides. I'm sure they have a well-maintained system of "elven-fi" so that no one is without a FaerieNet connection. Log on to ImagiNet for visions of the Otherworld, which disappear like the mist when the sun rises.

Photoshop, 7" x 3 1/2", May 28, 2014.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bacchant Boy

I don't usually do portrait faces. I'm just not good at them but I found the perfect reference photo so I did one. This was aimed at a "specialty" audience who love this sort of thing. I was inspired by my friend and blogbuddy Tristan Alexander who does so well with figures and faces. A "Bacchant" is a devotee of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and drunkenness. They were famous for their keg parties and excessive behavior. Nowadays we just have genteel wineries where no Dionysian action takes place.

Mixed media on golden brown paper, 7" x 10", October 2000.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Spiny Creature

I have many legs. I'm not even sure how many as I can re-grow them if I lose one or two. I live in shallow, remote areas of the sea and I like sunlight and good food. I am not food, and I am not good to eat. My spines protect me against most predators. I have features of both crabs and sea urchins. People eat those creatures but not me. I and my kin am sentient and we are the undiscovered little descendants of the great radial-shaped Old Ones who once ruled the primordial earth.

Ink on sketchbook page, some photoshop additions, 4 1/2" x 3", May 26, 2014.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Masque of Pleasure

I experimented with fetish fantasy art in the 1990s. I used conventional nude model poses to create a  twisted concept series set in an imaginary Byzantine empire. In this one, the model's head is covered by a grotesque piece of parade armor. Note the "Moorish columns" in the background, which you have seen before. The drawing was done on rough-textured brown paper which gives the image a granular texture rather than the smooth blends I prefer. 

"The Masque of Pleasure" is mixed media on brown paper, 7" x 10", January-February 1994.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Crustacean Creature

My sketchbook journal this year is "high-concept," featuring text entries in frames and drawings on every page. Each page has a different layout although the frames, writing, and drawing are on each page. This creature emerges from "watery" frames as I imagine it to be an undersea creature. It has mostly crustacean features (like a lobster) and four beady red eyes, but it also has wormlike tentacles like a sea worm. I don't make any judgement on whether it is sentient or not, nor whether it is tasty. However, I recommend finding out for sure whether your seafood is sentient before you throw it into the cooking pot. 

Pen and markers on sketchbook page, about 3" x 6", May 24, 2014.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Severian the executioner

I've been a fan of the work of fantasy author Gene Wolfe for a long time. Back in the 1980s I read his "New Sun" series and did a number of illustrations for them, including this one. This piece depicts Severian, the torturer hero in his fuligin-black outfit, holding the executioner's sword in front of him. "Fuligin," a word perhaps invented by Wolfe, is the black that is darker than black, nowadays produced with carbon nanotubes. In the story, he falls in love with one of his prisoners, Thecla, who is eventually sentenced to die in a particularly horrible way. He slips her a knife so that she can slay herself before she meets that fate. For this, he is exiled and that is how his adventures begin. She shows up in his imagination, or perhaps as a ghost. In the picture, his ghostly lady, Thecla, is in the background. This is not a very good photo but it is the only one I have. 

Severian portrait is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 20",  August 1983.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Yet Another Pin-up Sketch

In the photo archive box that contained my baby and childhood pictures at my parents' house, I also discovered a pack of playing cards which had a nude pin-up girl model image on each card. These were presented under the guise of "artistic studies" if you believe the caption on the box they came in. They were 52 regular playing cards marked with the suit (clubs, spades, diamonds, hearts) and the number or face card in abbreviation. There were not 52 different models but a selection of poses from a smaller number of girls, each one having a set of poses unrelated to what suit or number they represented. There was a set from a red-headed girl, a set from the girl above with curly dark hair, etc. The deck dated from around the mid-1950s and was meant to be a titillating novelty item. But the poses, however tiny they were on a standard card deck size, were perfect for my pin-up quest. I copied this one into my sketchbook journal. I was actually using the deck for "artistic studies" rather than vintage amusement.

Original drawing in ink on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, about 3" x 4", May 2014.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Little Me 1959

I'm back from my visit to my aged mother in Massachusetts, on the first anniversary of my father's passing. During that week I worked with Brandeis University archivists collecting, classifying, and saving my father's musical works, papers, media, and correspondence. My mother and I are donating my father's archive to Brandeis, where he spent 37 years as a professor of music. 

During that time I also went through a photo archive of my baby and childhood pictures. They bring back lots of my memories as a mid-50s kid growing up in woodsy suburbs. The open places I used to play in are all overgrown with trees, brush, and weeds, which give habitat to woodland and migrating birds. 

I collected the best of these old pictures and will show some of them on Facebook, as I don't usually put photographs up on the By-Product. The picture you see above is me at age 6. It is dated on the back, by my mother, as "First day of camp, June 29, 1959." I'm in front of our house, holding a lunch box, which my father used to refer to as a "lunch pail." This was a day camp and I have some memories of it. There was a swimming pool in which I tried, unsuccessfully, to learn to swim. There were also craft things to do, such as braiding colorful plastic "gimp" twine into lanyards and bracelets. 

These photos also bring back my inner memories. What was I thinking or doing at the time? I can pretty much tell you. Super-heroes. I was into comics and costumed super-heroes very early in my life and they were my constant companions. I drew lots of comic book images and designs for super-hero characters. I used mostly colored pencil, a medium of mine you know well. It's possible that some of my hero and creature drawings are hidden in my mother's art archives, but I won't know for a while. There is a continuity of subject matter in my art from my earliest days until the present. In my mind, nothing much has changed about the kid who went to day camp in 1959.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Honeymoon Castle

Some neighbors commissioned me to do a painting of the place they visited on their honeymoon, "Kasteel Wittem" in the Netherlands. The husband gave my picture to his wife on their anniversary. This castle isn't very big but it has been extensively restored and is run as a setting for weddings, honeymoons, and other romantic festivities. I depicted the couple in Renaissance garb standing by their castle. If you look closely (clickonthepic) you can see two black swans on the moat. 

Watercolor on illustration board, 14" x 11", April 1995.

Note to readers: The By-Product will be on hold during next week as I am going up to the old homestead for a family care visit.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Volcanic Fire Garden

It's almost abstract, but it is an accurate depiction of volcanic bursts around a fissure or vent. The fountains of sparks are known in volcanology as "Strombolian" activity, and the smaller glowing jets are fumaroles of hot gas in the solidifying lava flow. Volcano pictures are much more exciting at night when the lava lamps are easily visible. 

"Volcanic Fire Garden" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 11", March 1999.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Quantum Lad

How to dress up a nicely built but ordinary art model? Give him some pin-up ornamentation and a "posing pouch" and that will do just fine. I did this piece, along with its companions, for the, uh, "specialty" market. I wasn't trying to compete with my blog buddy Tristan, he's much more imaginative with his figures. This wasn't from a live model, but from one of my many model-photo books. Drawing on colored paper is fun and in a way some of your work is already done for you by the background tone. You don't have to build the whole figure, just add lighter and darker parts. 

I named him "Quantum Lad" as a tribute to the "Legion of Super-Heroes" whose hero names usually include a "lad" or a "lass" or a more prosaic "boy" or "girl," such as "Cosmic Boy" and "Saturn Girl." There actually has been a "Kid Quantum" in the Legion. The Legionnaires usually wear more clothes, though. I have been a "Legion of Super-heroes" fan most of my life, though they are DC and not Marvel. 

"Quantum Lad" asks the question: Why use the name "Quantum?" To appeal to Gay physicists, perhaps. But are there any Gay physicists? I have met one or two. Physics is such a macho business and they pretend that orientation doesn't matter. Anyway, "Quantum Lad" is one of my better figure drawings but he would need a better costume to get into the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Colored pencil and gouache on brown paper, 10" x 7", October 2000.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dragon Head for May

I recently acquired a large picture book filled with beautiful photographic images of reptiles of all kinds, from turtles to lizards to snakes. I intended it to inspire pictures of dragons and dragon-like critters. So I took one of the beasties as a model and drew its head into my sketchbook, adding horns and spikes as are traditional for a dragon (and which appear on the heads of many real creatures.). And lo and behold, instead of a reptile dragon, I drew a chicken dragon. A rooster he may be, but he's a beaked chicken, with a wattle and horns instead of a cockscomb. Possibly this is inspired by my recent visit to Aspen Dale winery where I admired their rooster. But then again, as recent paleontology has demonstrated, birds evolved from dinosaurs and related reptiles, and they still have some reptilian characteristics which you can clearly see in birds like chickens and turkeys. So here's the head of the Roosterdragon. Just imagine what a dragon crowing for dawn might sound like.

Ink and some marker white-out on sketchbook page finished in Photoshop digital inking, 4 1/2" x 4", May 7, 2014.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Couple Portrait with Cats

This rollicking couple impersonating fantasy cliche' personae are old friends of mine from the science fiction fan world. They asked to have their portraits done in a humorous fantasy setting but the cats were real. The male spouse portrays a wizard, adorned with his own made-up heraldic arms, black and silver quarters with a sword and a silver rose. Note the spirits in the blue halo behind him.  He pours magical stardust down upon his lady spouse, who reclines in lingerie while holding a glowing golden iris. The three cats are portraits too, including the one on the right who was depicted from memory and photos as she was already deceased when the portrait was done. Her name was "Starbuck" although she had nothing to do either with Moby Dick or with coffee. This portrait brings back fond memories of the times when I was much more active in the science fiction fan and convention community.

Acrylic on illustration board, 12" x 16", July 1993. Click for larger image.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Haunted Slinky

Listening to a live online ambient music show, someone in the chatroom (isn't technology grand?) suggested that the dark clangy metallic sounds in the improv sounded like a "haunted slinky." Well, that was my cue so here it is, "The Haunted Slinky." I don't think you want this one flipping noisily down the stairs. 

Photoshop speedpaint, about 7" x 3 1/2", May 5, 2014. Click for larger image.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


One of the most important subject matters in fantasy art is "beautiful women." I have tried throughout my artistic life to depict them and most of the time I fail. This is the closest I have gotten to a real pretty fantasy girl. I did it by tracing the figure, a fashion model photo, on graphite transfer paper to my painting board. As I discussed some posts earlier, direct tracing of a photo is considered somewhat "dishonorable" (though plenty of graphic artists do it) and also possibly a violation of copyright. I didn't change anything in the original except the golden color of the girl's eyes. The acrylic painting, though, is all mine. Since this piece will never be published other than here, copyright isn't much of an issue. I would like to be able to generate my beautiful women either from life or even from my imagination like many comics artists do. I especially love the work of Frank Cho, who is one of the best figure artists in the business. He is marketing a "How to draw beautiful women" book which might be just the thing I need, and it is coming out in October of this year. Anyway, I will never give up trying to depict beautiful fantasy women (and men too.).

"Sundreamer" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", April 2000. Click for larger view.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Beards

These gentlemen had already been together for 20 years before they commissioned this portrait for their anniversary. As Pagans, they officially honored partnerships between straights or gays. They asked to be depicted wearing their personal symbols, a griffin or a wolf, which I depicted as embroidery on their neo-antique tunics. They wore a copper or brass cuff instead of wedding rings. The one on the left is a major Pagan writer, ceremonialist, and teacher. 

It took me months to complete this picture, which I nicknamed "The Beards." I started it in wintertime. By the time I was finished, the trees were flourishing with fresh yellow-green spring foliage, rather like the Middle Atlantic states right now. In its time this open celebration of Gay partnership was still somewhat shocking, but nowadays the widespread acceptance of Gay marriage has made it look…cozy, except for the Pagan part. The art is still on display in this couple's house, and they just celebrated 15 more years as spouses since the painting.

"The Beards" is acrylic on Masonite, 20" x 24", spring 1999. Click on the image for a larger view.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Howard Roark 2014

Ayn  Rand's famous architect character is a kind of artistic touchstone for me. Every year I try to depict him in an illustration, hoping to really capture the combination of brilliance and bad-assery of the flame-haired hero of engineering and building. This is the guy that signed an illegal private contract with a mediocre colleague to disguise his work as the colleague's, just to see his building built in its proper details, only to BLOW IT UP when the mediocre colleague compromises under budget and political pressures and deviates from the original ideas and standards. Not only that, Roark gets away with it in a sensational public trial. If I were one of Roark's subsequent clients, I would ask him whether he would demolish our building if I were forced to compromise on the original design. "Yeah, you (expletive deleted), you better believe it. You want your second-hander type of pile, you go find some (expletive deleted) who will design it for you." How to succeed in architecture!

I've often thought of who I would cast in the role. Gary Cooper, who played him in the movie "The Fountainhead," was just too old for the role. We need a manic egomaniac with naturally flame-red hair like a fantasy hero. In his younger days, actor Eric Stolz (who actually played Ayn Rand's lover in "The Passion of Ayn Rand" could play Roark. But Stolz is getting kinda, uh, old now. I am sure there are plenty of guys who could look the part, but would anyone bring the character to life? I await "Fountainhead Comics."

Ink on sketchbook page with one Photoshop orange accent, 3 1/2" x 5", May 2, 2014.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Shocking topless celebrity pic

I should paint more images of nude or semi-nude females. I didn't do as poorly as I thought in the past when I painted figures. This one, with generic magical items and special effects, was modeled for by a friend of a friend who had a nice body and didn't mind showing it off. The photo developers (in those days, we didn't all have digital cameras) were all too happy to develop nude model shots provided that the pictures were not pornographic. I had my model pose with sheer fabrics, staff, and sphere of power. Nowadays countless models or model wannabes post their own images, nude or clothed or adorned, on places like deviantART with an open invitation for artists to use them as photo references.

Somewhere in my studio those images still exist. I should find them and digitize them. I need all the photo models I can get. I did other paintings from these photos as well, which also need to be saved as digital files. I tried to paint "realistic" breasts on my female pose characters, but maybe this one's are too pointy at the nipple? I'd have to review the photos to find out. I should paint and draw more figures, really.

"Blue Drift" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10",  April 2000.